Led Lighting are used to better see and be seen. But they are also a powerful tool for designers and automotive marketers, suggesting both elegance and technological sophistication. Manufacturers have understood this well and are multiplying innovations in this field, as much to improve active safety as to invent new languages in terms of automotive style.
Two Led headlights and a grille, like two eyes and a mouth. Eyes that can be laughing or threatening, an amused mouth or the opposite grimace. For many years, automotive designers have used these essential elements to give personality to their creations, in a context of fierce competition and technical solutions that tend towards a certain uniformity of the style of modern cars.
Fortunately, a new lighting technology was ready to land: the LEDs Lighting. Clearly less energy-consuming than light bulbs (halogen or discharge), the LEDs Lighting were all suitable for use as daylighting. Some manufacturers, Audi in mind, have gone to great lengths using LED garlands as a visual signature of their models, instantly recognizable day and night. So today, even humble citizens enjoy their “whiskers” bright. Premium brands must therefore find other ways to distinguish themselves.
They have already begun by extending the LEDs to all lighting functions. The current Mercedes S-Class will thus remain in history as the first car to be totally devoid of conventional light bulbs, since it uses LEDs as sole source of light, from ceiling lights to high beams. The more adventurous have even tried the solution of laser headlights, where conventional diodes are replaced by units emitting an ultra-bright laser beam. For cost reasons, however, the laser headlights remain anecdotal: only the Audi R8 and the BMW i8 can receive them. And these options are still expensive: almost 4,000 € for the Audi and 6,500 € for the BMW!
But the next revolution in automotive lighting will undoubtedly come from OLED technology. OLED diodes (for “organic light-emitting diode”) are already used for mobile phones and some flat screen televisions. By their appearance, they differ radically from conventional LED diodes: they consist of a superposition of seven layers, two of which serve as electrodes. Direct current is sent from the cathode to the anode through a light emitting layer. OLED diodes are ultrafine (a few micrometers thick), emit a coherent light all over their surface, and are even flexible!
Clearly, OLED technology opens up a whole new field of exploration for designers, who can imagine three-dimensional effects, or even cover all or part of the body of OLED diodes for a spectacular visual impression. The classic door handles could for example be replaced by tactile areas materialized by light guides on the surface of the bodywork. In short, everything is possible! The first applications of OLED lighting in large series should not be long, and Audi may well be the first to open hostilities. We bet that after the vogue of 2005 “whiskers” LED, ultra-complex lights OLED will be the big fashion of 2020!