• May 30th 2008 at 5:27PM
  • 7
In the ongoing effort to improve fuel efficiency on vehicles, automakers are looking for ways to reduce parasitic losses that absorb power from the engine rather than sending it to the drive wheels. That means replacing constant drive hydraulic steering assist systems with on-demand electric equivalents and just generally trying to cut the power requirements for all accessory systems. One area that draws power is the lighting system. Cutting the power requirements for headlights is a tricky problem since performance needs to be maintained for safety reasons. One of the best new technologies for lighting is LEDs. Last year Lexus launched LED low beam headlamps on the LS600h and now Audi is taking the next step with the R8 sports car.

Audi has just added a new full LED light option that includes high and low beams, turn signals and daytime running lights. The cluster contains 54 LEDs that never wear out, provide better lighting performance and use less power. There is just one problem, as usual with new technology: it's expensive. Audi is charging a €3,590 ($5,600 U.S.) premium for the full LED system. Eventually the price will come down, hopefully sooner rather than later and on a car like the R8 it probably won't make much difference to the mileage. Nonetheless all of these little things add up and help. Going forward as we move to electrified cars, reducing the electrical power draw will be even more critical. By the middle of the next decade when we have significant numbers of electric cars coming to our roads we will probably start seeing LED lighting going mainstream. Details from Audi after the break.

Press Release:

Ingolstadt, 2008-05-30

The finest in lighting technology:

First full-LED headlamp for the Audi R8

  • 54 high-performance LEDs provide all lighting functions
  • Color similar to daylight offers advantages at night
  • Innovative lighting technology as option

Ingolstadt – Effective immediately, the range of equipment available for the Audi R8 sports car now also includes the first full-LED headlamp. In addition to the daytime running light which now features 24 LEDs per headlamp, light-emitting diodes are also used for the turn signals, the low-beam and the high-beam headlights. The €3,590 option rounds out the list of equipment available for the high-tech, mid-engine sports car.

The earlier launch of LED technology at the front of the car required a waiver by the European Union. The prominent advantages are lower energy consumption and a color that more closely resembles daylight, provides greater contrast and is easier on the human eye. LEDs are also non-wearing, require a lower voltage, are compact and offer greater design freedom.

The new full-LED headlamp represents the pinnacle of Audi's lighting strategy. The use of LEDs already enjoys a long tradition. This innovative technology has previously been used in production vehicles for tail light functions, brake lights and daytime running lights. Since early 2003, Audi has also used the semiconductor technology in a number of concept cars to implement some or all of the lighting functions at the front of the car.

The brand with the four rings first introduced a strip-shaped fog lamp at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003. That same year, the Audi Nuvolari quattro showing the first full-LED headlamp was a highlight of the Geneva Auto Show. And the Le Mans quattro – a legitimate predecessor to the Audi R8 – illuminated the Frankfurt night with LEDs on the eve of the 2003 Frankfurt Auto Show.

Additional concept cars and many refinements to the light source and headlamp geometry followed. This technological highlight is now available as an option for the Audi R8, where it joins other very well-known high-tech components such as the aluminum Audi Space Frame, ceramic brakes and the mid-mounted V8 engine with FSI technology.

[Source: Audi]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      this price is ridiculous! if they get away with it, it's because people are fooled into thinking that LED headlights are some kind of far-out space-age technology on the bleeding edge of possibility. what a joke.

      in reality, you could meet or exceed the output of a 55W halogen headlight for $100 using about 6 of the latest cree xr-e leds. google them if you don't believe me. nighttime bicyclists have been building some crazy lamps out of them and posting good pictures of what they can do. cutter electronics in oz sells the leds mounted on single or clustered aluminum boards, the optics, and the electronics to drive them.

      people say they're hard to design because of heat dissipation issues, but that's a load of crap. they don't put out much heat and there's no shortage of airflow in an automotive application. most of these bike lights are just crammed into a metal tube.
      • 7 Years Ago
      6000K (cool white)
      This is garbage. Worse to drive with than HID headlamps.
      Audi should be shooting for something above the melting point of a tungsten filament and below HIDs.
      Target 3750-4000K CCT

      If LED headlights are to replace incandescent on a mass scale, the LEDs have to be the coolest of the warm-whites
      look at the spectra on page 18/19
      Rain, sleet, snow, fog, dust, smoke. There is no way I would want to drive with anything but warm-white, or be subject to the blue of cool-white headlights.
      • 7 Years Ago
      That's encouraging. LEDs have really gained a foothold just about everywhere now it seems. Personally, I'd be happy if only there was a law against those high-positioned bright headlights on those big pickup trucks. The ones that glare right through your rear window. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about.

      But yeah, back on topic - LED lights are really nice, I'm glad to see them catching on even in car headlights!
      • 7 Years Ago
      Not even the Tesla Roadster has full LED lighting. Instead, it goes with LED tail-lights and halogen high and low beam headlamps.

      This is a big step forward for LED lights, and hopefully it will start to penetrate the market. However, I can't imagine many buyers will see its value if they have to add $5,600 for essentially no reason. The only benefit, besides lower power consumption, is the fact that the LED lights will basically last forever. But there was never any big problem with lights dying out in the first place.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Derek, not true re: heat. I've built high power LED arrays (240 watt plus) and they have nowhere near the heat output even the manufacturers claim. LED thermal issue are overstated, imho. Your average heatsink is more than adequate.

      Cree cool whites hit 129 lumens per watt in september 07, though we're yet to see this in a product, the XR-Es are still around 80lm/watt, so Xenon HIDs win there.

      I guess you have to take lamp life into consideration with this, too - halogen ~550 hrs, HID ~3,500 hrs, LED ~100,000 hrs.

      and, yep, they could indeed do this for a 10th of the price with Crees or Luxeons.... it's more psychological pricing - if it's that expensive it *must* be better.
      • 7 Years Ago
      @#2 LED auto lighting is not as easy as you seem to think. A 55W halogen doesn't put out very much light by modern standards. The type of HID bulbs that Audi currently uses put out 3200 lumens per side with a 35W input. That's well more than 2-4x the light of any 55W halogen I can find a reference for while using 36% less power.

      As for heat, I have a 3W LED flashlight and it does get rather warm. I also bought a 10W LED to experiment with and it will easily burn you if it has been on for a few minutes. Older LED's never get hot because they are simply such low wattage. The lights in a car must be able to survive when said car is stuck in traffic in the middle of a hot summer night in Arizona, so free airflow is not always available. Cars capable of very high speeds also need a bit more light than a bicyclist.
      • 7 Years Ago
      This article I read a couple weeks ago seems relevant:
      "High-power LEDs in cars are there for the brand statement"
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