How to choose between HID and LED Headlights

The short answer to the question of whether HID or LED lights is better is LED.

There are currently three technologies that dominate the automotive headlight world. They are:

  • Light-Emitting Diode or LED lights
  • High-Intensity Discharge or HID lights
  • Halogen lights

Halogen bulbs have been used in cars practically since they were invented, but in the last 20 years halogens have been eased out first by HID bulbs, and now LED bulbs – have a read of this article for a more in-depth comparison: HID vs LED Headlights Which Are Better

Manufacturers have traditionally favoured HIDs and halogens over LEDs. But improvements in LED technology have meant LED headlights are fast becoming the new standard.

One clear advantage of LED headlight bulbs is that light intensity is quite weak for halogen and HID bulbs. In comparison LED bulbs offer a tightly concentrated and more focused beam. In addition, this is near the center while the beam has a strong curve emanating from the center.

Add into the equation that the LED’s color is higher on the Kelvin scale and that headlights whose light output is a closer match to the color temperature of the sun tend to be the most effective for the human eye and you can see why LEDs are edging ahead in the headlight race.

What are the LED advantages over HIDs? For a start, they offer more longevity. Add to this that although LED and HID headlights have excellent light output, LEDs light up instantly, compared to HIDs, which take a few seconds to come to full brightness and proper color.

LEDs differ from halogen bulbs because they don’t have a filament through which current passes. LEDs transfer current through semi-conductors and the movement of electrons is what generates light.

A significant advantage of this type of light generation is that one can adjust the frequency of the emitted light by changing the material properties of the semi-conductor,  and so changing the light’s color.

LEDs have now been in use for decades and you can find them is cell phones and laptops, even models that are two decades years old. They are small and have low power consumption which renders them ideal for such applications. They also generate the least amount of heat when compared with the alternatives.

Lexus was the first manufacturer to incorporate LEDs into their headlights back in 2006, but Lexus didn’t complete the implementation. It was the next year that Audi revealed the first full-LED headlights in the company’s R8 sports car V10 model.

Thanks to the fact that LEDs can be manufactured in a variety of sizes, several impressive applications have been developed using them. For example, Audi fitted a headlight on its 2013 A8 which employed 25 individual LEDs in each headlight. Using this system enabled certain sections of the light to be dimmed while the rest could remain bright.

What this meant was that the road directly ahead of the car could remain brightly lit, while areas that contained oncoming traffic only shone a dim light creating a much safer environment for night driving for all road users.

image credit: HID and LED Headlights via PongMoji/shutterstock

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