A defining characteristic of the automotive lighting industry is how technology has continually evolved over the past century, providing new solutions and innovations for manufacturers.
Today it is LED technology that is transforming the exterior lighting market, replacing more traditional halogen solutions for vehicles and rapidly being commercialised in fast growing markets such as Asia. Nearly all relevant tier one manufacturers have now developed full LED-based headlamp systems.
LED technology is particularly attractive for exterior lighting for a number of reasons1:
- it offers better optical precision and is more efficient. While halogen offers 15-30 lumens per watt, LEDs offer 60-120 lumens per watt (a lumen is a measure of how much visible light is emitted by a source)
- low power consumption and lower weight make LEDs ideal for electric vehicles. LED bulbs typically use up to 25% less energy than traditional lights, meaning that electric vehicles can travel much further on a single charge
- LEDs last the lifetime of a vehicle and contribute to lower CO2 emissions. It has been estimated that if the world used LED lamps in all sectors then global electricity consumption for lighting would be reduced by more than half, with 735 million tons of CO2 avoided each year2
- faster illumination and focused brightness are a strong safety benefit, in particular for brake lights
A good example of a vehicle employing LED technology is the Audi A7 which is regarded as having one of the most extensive automotive lighting systems.
Rather than having traditional low and high beams, the car has 25 separate LEDs per headlamp. Thanks to on-board cameras, the car’s headlamps can be dipped to avoid blinding oncoming drivers, while if the driver gets too close to a vehicle in front the car adjusts its light pattern to prevent the driver from being dazzled by reflected light from their own headlamps. The car’s lights can also better detect writing on street signs, adding to its safety features.
The interior lighting market is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 3.8% from 2014 to 2020 reaching $1.3bn3, driven by the flexibility of LED technology and the increasing appetite of manufacturers to create ambient lighting which gives drivers and passengers a sense of space and comfort.
LEDs can automatically adapt to surrounding ambient light, and they are so small and light that they can be easily mounted to many interior parts. As a result, such lighting is now commonly incorporated into virtually every aspect of a vehicle.
As well as traditional turn and brakelighting applications, you increasingly find ambient lighting in ceiling domes, map lights, instrument panels, gear sticks and door panels.
1 IHS Automotive
2 The Climate Group: Support The Big Switch
3 Technavio, Global Automotive Lighting Market 2016-2020