Gone are the days of the humble light bulb where our only thought was to get the correct make and fit. Dim vision meant time to clean the lights, now it’s time to consider changing the bulb and we are spoilt for choice with Halogen, High Intensity Discharge (HID), Light Emitting Diodes (LED) and Laser but what is the difference?
Here is a short guide to give you the basic facts of the light producing options for your vehicle, on and off road.
The old faithful since the 1960’s, based on the domestic bulb with a tungsten filament in cased in a bubble of halogen gas. The 1990’s saw illumination improvements replace glass lenses with polycarbonate and computer designed positioned reflectors to maximise light projection. Low cost with a life expectancy of up to a thousand hours the halogen bulb draws 55W of power unfortunately most of that energy is heat as opposed to light.
High Intensity Discharge (HID) / Xenon
These have a bright white glow with a distinctive blue haze at the edges reportedly three times brighter then the halogen design. A mixture of rare metals and xenon gas are heated to produce a flicker proof light whilst the bulbs reach maximum brightness within a few minutes. Due to the brightness of the HID bulb countries like Australia have banned them claiming they are a hazard to on coming drivers whilst car manufacturers are restricting the use to low beam only. The rare metal used in a HID bulb means it will always be a costly option; they draw 35W and will last approximately two thousand hours.
Light Emitting Diodes (LED)
They have been slowly surrounding us in key rings, toys, home entertainment, phones everywhere really the little Led bulb. It achieves maximum brightness quickly making it a firm favorite for brake lights improving reaction times of other users by a third. Recent improvements have produced a brighter light where the diode effectively converts most of its energy into light with hardly any heat.
Through advanced scientific research, the “CREE” LED chip has been developed. They are revolutionising the lighting industry due to their outstanding energy efficiency, brilliantly intense, bright white light and incredible lifespan of the chip compared to a normal incandescent bulb and a generic LED.
A “CREE” LED chip is actually a microchip that emits an incredibly pure white light, that is amazingly bright for it’s size and by far outperforms any traditional torch you may be familiar with. Due to their high efficiency, they achieve a lot brighter light for a much longer amount of time, using smaller and fewer batteries than a standard torch. Generally “CREE” LED life spans are estimated to be a phenomenal 100,000 hours.
Slowly these are reducing in price and becoming mainstream, maybe because they will last much longer, better than a car’s ECU then!
A blue laser beam reflects off mirrors to concentrate on a lens filled with yellow phosphorous gas activating it to emit an intense white glow. That intense light is then reflected backwards to be diffused then projected forward to give a light one thousand times brighter then an LED. BMW are currently offering this new technology introduced in 2011 at the Frankfurt Motor Show, claiming the Laser light uses only half the energy of an LED, good for any hybrid. We await further facts.