Valeo Sylvania (www.valeosylvania.com; Seymour, IN), along with its Asian partner Ochikoh, plan to lead the way when it comes to developing next-generation lighting systems, including having the first full LED headlamp on the global market—to be sold in Asia on an Asian brand product—by 2008. Valeo Sylvania is bullish on the future for LEDs, even though only 7% of vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2005 have rear lighting systems using the technology. The supplier predicts that penetration will jump to 25% in 2010 and upwards of 45% by 2015 for rear lighting applications. The benefits to automakers are numerous, including reduced packaging size, improved reliability (the average LED has a life of 10,000 hours, compared to 1,000 hrs for an incandescent bulb), fuel economy benefits from lower electrical current usage and weight reductions, along with increased options in lighting design. “It’s all about styling, styling, styling. LEDs allow us to be very creative in terms of lighting design options,” said Tony Garrison, system manager-Valeo Sylvania Automotive Lighting Systems. While governments throughout the world have various regulations when it comes to vehicle front and rear lighting color, brightness and beam pattern, there is little on the books about the shape of lights, which could pave the way for vehicle designers and lighting suppliers to develop unique configurations, including brand logos, etc.
The major problem with LEDs remains cost, which can run about 4 to 5 times as much as an incandescent bulb. On a systems basis, the cost is more than 25% higher than a traditional exterior lighting system. In the day and age of slim profit margins, its doubtful OEMs will jump on the LED bandwagon until the systems become more affordable.—KMK