LEDs set to further illuminate global automotive lighting marketplace

Jan. 1, 2020
Citing decreased energy consumption and better performance, among other efficiencies and attributes, a report by McKinsey & Co. is predicting a sharp worldwide increase in LED systems by the end of the decade.
Citing decreased energy consumption and better performance, among other efficiencies and attributes, a report by McKinsey & Co. is predicting a sharp worldwide increase in LED (Light Emitting Diode) systems for automotive applications by the end of the decade. Adaptations for both exterior and interior LEDs are on the rise.

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In 2011, LEDs claimed a 12 percent share, contributing to the overall category’s global revenue of $18.1 billion. Researchers expect to see a spike of 22 percentage points by 2020, upping the LED share to 34 percent of the overall auto lighting market.

The forecast is based on the anticipated growth in the adoption of LED headlights and daytime running lights by automakers over the next eight years, according to David Hulick, marketing director at Osram Specialty Solid State Lighting.

Hulick points to three major trends driving the LED adoption rate upward:

  • Styling and aesthetics – New LED systems empower designers with a more flexible palette, enabling new shapes, colors and mounting configurations that were not possible until recently.
  • Functionality and safety – LEDs offer better vision and reduced glare, and they operate at a color temperature that is close to natural sunlight.
  • Energy savings – LEDs use significantly less energy than standard halogens. Osram’s JOULE JFL2 technology, for instance, utilizes 14 watts of electricity compared with 65 watts for a conventional bulb.

“An efficient LED headlamp system can extend an electric vehicle’s range on a charge by nearly six miles,” says Hulick. “So, whether the goal is reduced fuel consumption or enhanced styling – be it for a hybrid or standard engine – LED lighting is simply the best technology available.”

The JOULE JFL2 integrates the light source and the socket into one easy-to-use package, making it compatible among different vehicle makes and models, he says. The technology has had its American rollout this year on three vehicle models, including the Cadillac XTS and the Cadillac ATS.

In August, a versatile “plug-and-play” LED JOULE module made its debut on the 2013 Mustang GT, which features the first LED fog lamp in the U.S. that is based on Osram’s standardized LED system. The grille-mounted hybrid reflector-projector system “complements the Mustang’s styling DNA,” says Hulick, amounting to the largest-volume LED forward-lighting application in the North American market.

“This new industry first demonstrates the inherent benefits of LEDs – flexibility in design, high energy efficiency and longer product life – which will drive the growth and competitive design edge that LED technology affords automakers,” Hulick continues. “We wanted to give high-volume carmakers the efficiency gains while still allowing them to create a look all their own.”

Osram’s goal was to provide automakers with an attractive solution to implement LED technology in various applications without paying the premium price tag that typically comes with it, he says, adding that LEDs offer a multitude of other features benefiting both drivers and OEMs:

  • Robustness – They have an extended life and are resistant to shock and vibration.
  • Packaging – Their small size enables lower profiles along with new applications and designs such as light guides and 3D configurations.
  • Optics – Directional emitters improve optical system efficiency.
  • Electronics – The infinite management of light is possible with the high-tech electronics within LEDs.

“Until recently, LEDs were most common in center high-mounted stop lamps and taillights, with headlights having been a novelty feature in very high-end vehicles,” says Hulick. “Now the industry is seeing growth in daytime running lights and headlight applications.”

In the near-term, the industry will experience an increase in daytime running lights and headlight usage, unique LED light guides and multiple light source lamps; McKinsey predicts that the technology will continue to change and advance – and in the future it will include technology such as smart headlamps that sense the driving environment and adjust the illumination accordingly.

Hulick explains to Aftermarket Business World that LED retrofits within the replacement realm are not likely to soon see the light of day due to compatibility issues.

“This is not in the plan as the optical requirements for traditional – i.e. halogen – and LED light sources are significantly different,” he points out. “This means that the form factor, electrical requirements and light output of JFL2 are so different from a halogen bulb that one cannot be substituted for another.”

He goes on to note that “no one has yet figured out how to make an LED retrofit that fits in a halogen socket and meets performance and/or regulatory requirements.” It can be used as the basis for aftermarket releases, which is happening in Germany for BMW motorcycle fog lights and in Japan for Mitsubishi dealer-installed fog lights, “but in each case the entire assembly is designed around the JOULE product.”

Cabin applications

Going forward, LEDs “will significantly change the look and feel of automotive interiors in years to come,” according to Dr. Herbert Wambsganss, director of engineering at Hella Interior Lighting Systems.

“Ambient LED lighting will open an entirely new chapter in automotive interior design,” he says. “Drivers will see significant changes in automotive interior lighting within the next five years – changes that will improve comfort levels and enhance brand awareness.”

Currently lighting is not a key factor in the design of most car and commercial vehicle cabins, says Wambsganss, predicting that the use of ambient LED lighting in North America will more than quadruple over the next five years.

“LED lighting technology provides designers with another important way to add value and improve the overall driving experience,” he says. “It’s a key new ingredient in the interior design equation.”

Research conducted by Hella in conjunction with Hamburg University in Germany shows that different colors have considerable impact “on both driver and passenger emotions and comfort levels.”

Drivers today spend an average of up to four hours a day in their cars or light trucks, while commercial vehicle owners spend even more time on the road, Wambsganss reports. “LED lighting technology opens up a wide variety of opportunities for auto makers to strengthen brand awareness with new interior design features, while improving customer satisfaction levels at the same time.”

Different colors have been found to provide a range of emotional responses such as excitement and feelings of calm, which in turn has generated interest in RGB (Red-Green-Blue) technology for use in automotive interiors, says Wambsganss, adding that RGB is becoming increasingly popular for interior lighting applications by “providing an almost infinite number of choices within a wide color spectrum by the controlled blending of the three primary LED colors.”

Osram also sees these types of developments emitting from the industry. “Yes, we agree,” says Hulick, describing a line of LED components “that support design work by Hella and other system integrators.”

And although Thomas A. Edison famously invented the light bulb in his New Jersey laboratory, many of the innovations seen in modern-day automotive lighting are originating from overseas.

According to consultant Daniel Stern, general editor at industry journal www.drivingvisionnews.com, one of the factors paving the way for a strong aftermarket lighting scene for European vehicles is that “there’s a clear, uniformly applied system of type-approval that applies equally to OE and aftermarket parts in Europe. The regulations are clearly written and available for free download in multiple languages.”

Stern further observes that “Germans are enthusiastic about car lights. German auto magazines and their equivalent of AAA routinely publish big comparisons of various cars’ headlight performance, and there are annual events where lighting manufacturers send trucks out to rove the streets and parking lots, offering free headlight aim adjustment and replacement of burned out bulbs to motorists.”

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