In the ongoing effort to improve fuel efficiency on vehicles, automakers are looking for ways to reduce parasitic losses that absorb power from the engine rather than sending it to the drive wheels. That means replacing constant drive hydraulic steering assist systems with on-demand electric equivalents and just generally trying to cut the power requirements for all accessory systems. One area that draws power is the lighting system. Cutting the power requirements for headlights is a tricky problem since performance needs to be maintained for safety reasons. One of the best new technologies for lighting is LEDs. Last year Lexus launched LED low beam headlamps on the LS600h and now Audi is taking the next step with the R8 sports car.

Audi has just added a new full LED light option that includes high and low beams, turn signals and daytime running lights. The cluster contains 54 LEDs that never wear out, provide better lighting performance and use less power. There is just one problem, as usual with new technology: it's expensive. Audi is charging a €3,590 ($5,600 U.S.) premium for the full LED system. Eventually the price will come down, hopefully sooner rather than later and on a car like the R8 it probably won't make much difference to the mileage. Nonetheless all of these little things add up and help. Going forward as we move to electrified cars, reducing the electrical power draw will be even more critical. By the middle of the next decade when we have significant numbers of electric cars coming to our roads we will probably start seeing LED lighting going mainstream. Details from Audi after the break.


Press Release:

Ingolstadt, 2008-05-30

The finest in lighting technology:

First full-LED headlamp for the Audi R8

  • 54 high-performance LEDs provide all lighting functions
  • Color similar to daylight offers advantages at night
  • Innovative lighting technology as option

Ingolstadt – Effective immediately, the range of equipment available for the Audi R8 sports car now also includes the first full-LED headlamp. In addition to the daytime running light which now features 24 LEDs per headlamp, light-emitting diodes are also used for the turn signals, the low-beam and the high-beam headlights. The €3,590 option rounds out the list of equipment available for the high-tech, mid-engine sports car.

The earlier launch of LED technology at the front of the car required a waiver by the European Union. The prominent advantages are lower energy consumption and a color that more closely resembles daylight, provides greater contrast and is easier on the human eye. LEDs are also non-wearing, require a lower voltage, are compact and offer greater design freedom.

The new full-LED headlamp represents the pinnacle of Audi's lighting strategy. The use of LEDs already enjoys a long tradition. This innovative technology has previously been used in production vehicles for tail light functions, brake lights and daytime running lights. Since early 2003, Audi has also used the semiconductor technology in a number of concept cars to implement some or all of the lighting functions at the front of the car.

The brand with the four rings first introduced a strip-shaped fog lamp at the Detroit Auto Show in 2003. That same year, the Audi Nuvolari quattro showing the first full-LED headlamp was a highlight of the Geneva Auto Show. And the Le Mans quattro – a legitimate predecessor to the Audi R8 – illuminated the Frankfurt night with LEDs on the eve of the 2003 Frankfurt Auto Show.

Additional concept cars and many refinements to the light source and headlamp geometry followed. This technological highlight is now available as an option for the Audi R8, where it joins other very well-known high-tech components such as the aluminum Audi Space Frame, ceramic brakes and the mid-mounted V8 engine with FSI technology.

[Source: Audi]