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Night light

John Day

John Day

Posted Dec 8, 2009

I had just made a right-hand turn on a recent evening when I just barely saw a bicyclist on the other side of the road, heading in the same direction I was. He(?) was riding fast, and it occurred to me that he might ride right past the cross street where (and when) I intended to turn left. I slowed down, he turned left, and I followed after – so nothing happened, except that I thought about night-time visibility, or lack thereof, and the advantages of more effective headlamps like xenon or LED.

It’s not just me. Frost & Sullivan surveyed consumers in Europe and half of them said they consider poor lighting stressful when they drive at night. They would welcome systems that offer better visibility. Steffen Pietzonka, vice president of marketing at Hella Lighting, notes that xenon headlamps offer up to three times as much light as the prevailing technology (halogen). He says tests indicate that xenon lamps would allow a driver to see a pedestrian – or a bicyclist – about 10 meters earlier.

Better technology typically costs more, and Pietzonka admits that it’s easier to sell a sound system than it is to sell safety, especially while the sun is shining. But the vast majority (95%) of people who have xenon lights say they’ll insist on them with their next purchase.

Then there are LEDs. Hella provides multi-chip white LEDs as light sources for low- and high-beam headlamps for the Cadillac Escalade Platinum SUV. Pietzonka says that with a color temperature of around 5,500 Kelvin, LEDs are closer to daylight (approximately 6,000 Kelvin) than xenon (approximately 4,000 Kelvin). LEDs last up to 20 times longer than halogen lamps, and they create new opportunities for styling and differentiation.

Advances in light source technologies are now allowing safer, more cost efficient and greater light generation than ever before,” says Aswin Kumar, Frost & Sullivan research analyst, automotive & transportation. New technologies are now set to propel automotive lighting to the forefront of automotive technology.” Will consumers pay more for the new technologies? Will you?


Hella Lighting, LED Lighting, Frost & Sullivan, Xenon Headlamps

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John DayJohn Day recently launched John Day’s Automotive Electronics News ( to provide news and feature coverage of the automotive electronics industry. Earlier he wrote for Auto Electronics magazine, Auto E-lectronics, EE Times, and other business and engineering publications. Visit John Day

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