LEDs use small diodes to produce light when an electric current excites their electrons, which makes them the most energy efficient product in the market today; they are directional, have no filaments to burn or gas to contend with, are instant on and use less energy to produce light than any other source. However, advances in technology usually come with growing pains and some people have found the sheer brightness of an LED bulb to be a drawback, while others felt their blueish hue was too cool for everyday activities. Cars switching to LED lights have been criticized for their bright headlights and how other drivers feel around them.

Thankfully, the technology has evolved so rapidly that LEDs can now be offered in every color available in the cool and warm spectrum, and can also be dimmed or controlled to emit just the right light output for human eyes.

But what about cars?
Why are cars switching to LEDs or using LED lights?

Simply put, LEDs are more energy efficient even for vehicles. Cars are switching to LEDs because manufacturers save when they use them: they’re small, require little energy to be powered and are easy to manipulate which translates to greater design control and more in-budget lighting options.

It is a myth that LED lights are too bright for the road: when you see a vehicle with difficult-to-tolerate headlights or similar, you’re looking at a Xenon or LED produced by “aftermarket” manufacturers. Car companies take their jobs seriously and they test a vehicle thoroughly before releasing a final product, when they fit a car with LED lights the output is bright but tolerable and above all “road-safe”.

Aftermarket production on the other hand, takes care of spare parts, accessories and/or components for motor vehicles and they work with estimates, which means light output can be higher or lower than deemed “pleasing” while still being safe. Aftermarket regulations vary from country to country, so the market can be easily flooded with subpar products.

The Types of Lights Used in Cars Today:

Basically there are three types of lights used in cars:

  1. Halogen Lights.
  2. Xenon Lights.
  3. LED lights.

1. Halogen Light:

is an incandescent lamp that has a small amount of a halogen gas, uses a tungsten filament and is capable of resisting very high temperatures. In order to produce light, the bulb receives electricity from the car and heats the tungsten which in turn starts the incandescence process.

Pros

  • Has a long lifespan of ~1,000 hrs under standard conditions.
  • Available for most car models and sizes and dimmable.

Cons

  • Energy-wasting, by virtue of its incandescent nature most of the energy used is lost as heat.
  • The bulb burns and the entire piece needs replacement.
  • High-maintenance; can’t touch the glass when replacing the bulb because it may break or become a safety hazard.

2. Xenon Lights:

Also known as high-intensity discharge headlamps, they are a more energy efficient solution than halogen lights. You’ll find them in lots of premium cars emitting that blueish light people tend to associate with LEDs.

Pros

  • Longer lifespan when compared to halogen lights ~2,000 hrs under standard conditions.
  • Better road visibility.

Cons

  • High glare effect for incoming traffic.
  • Expensive technology.
  • Some contain mercury making them harmful for humans and the environment.

3. LED Lights:

LED headlights require very little power from the cart to produce light, allowing vehicles to have more energy to power other parts, whether they run on gas, hybrid or electric alternatives. These is especially useful for vehicles that have electric dashboards, radio and GPS functions, etc.

Pros

  • Longer lifespan ~5,000 hours to u to 25,000 hours
  • Lower energy demand, more power for the car
  • Small size, easily adapted
  • Rapidly evolving technology
  • Greater light output contro

Cons

  • More expensive technology, even though prices are constantly dropping as LEDs become more popular.
  • Higher temperature for adjacent assembly points (LEDs do not produce heat or very little, but the base may heat up in cars/confined spaces).

As you can see the advantages to LEDs for manufacturers are great at the moment even though the price may seem steep upfront, the technology is rapidly evolving and just like the $50 LED bulb is practically a thing of the past, automotive-ready LEDs are becoming more and more affordable. Automakers are working to produce lighting that is both safe for the driver and incoming traffic and we might just be a few tweaks away from that.

So if you’re wondering why cars are switching to LED despite the supposed glare they produce, you should now be aware that is mostly xenon lights that have that effect. We may still have a few more bumps in the road until we reach the most aesthetically pleasing, energy efficient and road safe light, but that’s the way with technology, it’s always evolving to give us better options.

If you want to start getting the benefits of LED lights now (greater visibility + low energy consumption) check out LED light bars here, portable flood LEDs here and our favorite portable flood LED lights that you can charge with your vehicle here.

Do you have any more questions regarding LED choices for vehicles, street lamps or commercial/residential use? Shoot us an email or comment below and we will gladly answer them!

About The Author

John Keirstead
John Keirstead
Serial Entrepreneur, Technologist and Inventor.
My objective is to develop useful products that have a net positive effect in the lives of those that use them and the environment that we live in.
CEO of Mission LED Lighting Company Ltd.
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2 Comments

  1. Bob

    August 21, 2017 at 7:18 pm

    LEDs ARE too bright, and most new cars I see have too bright low beams and it has gotten to the point where I can just about always guess if it’s a new car by how blinding their low beams are. New Toyota’s are especially bad in this regard, very blinding low beams, google it if you don’t believe me, they are a lot of complaints online. A lot of new taillights are also way too bright making me squint as I wait behind them at lights. LED lights do not belong on cars until and if they are somehow regulated to not blind drivers. It is illegal to drive with high beams on and many of the newer cars’ low beams are just as bright as older high beams.

    Reply
    • John Keirstead

      September 7, 2017 at 10:36 pm

      Hi Bob, as we mentioned in the post above the really bright lights that most people think are LEDs are actually just popularly mislabeled Xenon Lights, passing for LEDs. LEDs actually have controlled output capability, and it is up to manufacturers to control the output.

      Your concerns are very valid and we look forward to seeing the technology evolve to the point where Xenon Lights are no longer needed (used now based simply on price), and LEDs are further controlled to a road-friendly beam that saves energy and keeps drivers safe. Thanks for sharing your experience with us!

      Reply

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