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OSRAM says automotive lighting trending to all-LED; particular benefits for electric vehicles

Projected global LED penetration in vehicle production. Source: OSRAM Sylvania. Click to enlarge.

The automotive market is inevitably trending to LED lighting for reasons of reliability, appearance, functionality and efficiency, says OSRAM SYLVANIA. OSRAM SYLVANIA, together with OSRAM GmbH (owned by Siemens), is the world leader in automotive lighting for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the aftermarket. LED signal lighting is well-established in all 3 major market regions, and LED forward lighting (FWL) is about to explode, the company says.

A 2008 paper by a team at the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) concluded that an all-LED system employing the then current generation of LEDs would result in general power savings of about 50% (nighttime) to about 75% (daytime) over a traditional system. The effect on long-term savings for the LED system depended upon the type of vehicle in use (gasoline-powered vs. electric). While the long-term fuel cost savings (dollars) were higher for the gasoline-powered vehicle, long-term distance savings (range) favored the electric vehicle.

OSRAM JOULE LED forward lighting unit. Click to enlarge.

Jonathan Dunlap, an automotive lighting engineer and product marketing manager with OSRAM, says that in internal testing with a Nissan LEAF, the company has found that use of an LED exterior lighting system provides an extra 9 km of range at night (4-5% range extension). (The LEAF currently uses an LED system from Valeo and its partner in Japan, Ichikoh, unveiled as a world premier on the LEAF.)

OSRAM also believes that micro-hybrids or mild hybrids which feature engine stop/start mechanisms to boost the efficiency of conventional vehicles, will benefit greatly from LED lighting by reducing power draw and battery drain, as well as increasing light output during low power mode and startups.

OSRAM notes that using energy-efficient LED technology in the 2010 Ford Mustang reduces rear lighting power consumption by 87% compared to standard incandescent bulbs. Lower lighting power consumption reduces the load on the alternator, which directly correlates to fuel efficiency gains and reduced CO2 emissions. This translates into an annual savings of 10.5 gallons of gasoline, and 205 fewer pounds of CO2 emitted into the atmosphere.

Even with conventional vehicles, a 28 watt LED system emits only 196 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 kilometers compared to 768 grams of carbon dioxide per 100 kilometers from conventional 110 watt H7 halogen bulbs. “Whether the goal is reduced fuel consumption or reduced carbon emissions, LED lighting is the best technology available,” says David Hulick, marketing director for Automotive Solid State Lighting for OSRAM SYLVANIA.

We see the trend in LED lighting moving from the interior to the exterior of the car, first in the rear, now moving to the front of the vehicle, with rapid increases in technology. We have engineered a modular plug-and-play [lighting] puck, meant to be the next generation. The premise of the JOULE product line is that while LEDS are more efficient and more compact, they are not as easy to use as traditional light sources. They require different thermal management, different optic prescriptions...we want to make a standardized package, a plug-in piece, to simplify this [for OEMs].

—Jonathan Dunlap

The JOULE system. JOULE is OSRAM’s trademark for Plug&Play LED solutions for automotive signal and applications, first introduced in the mid-2000s. OSRAM subsequently developed a forward lighting portfolio to meet different requirements; Volkswagen featured the use of OSRAM LED forward lighting for low beams in the L1 concept, and OSRAM says that its first high-volume project is under development.

OSRAM has begun series production of the new JOULE JFL2 second generation 50mm - LED light source for headlights. The applications include lighting functions such as high and low beams, fog lights, daytime running lights and other applications that can be configured by the vehicle manufacturers. The JFL2S draws 14 watts of power.


  • Schoettle, B., Sivak, M., Fujiyama, Y. (2008) LEDs and power consumption of exterior automotive lighting: Implications for gasoline and electric vehicles (UMTRI-2008-48



Do the math.
Say 4 miles / KwH
Say 50 mph
Electric power = 12.5 Kw
Say you save 80 watts,
this is 6.4% saved.

a: Not bad
b: It shows what a tight energy budget electric cars are on.
c: Don't think of using the air conditioner or a heater.


Vehicle electrification will force design engineers to look for better more efficient ways to reduce energy consumption, at least until such times as e-storage units have evolved 5 to 10 folds.

All will have to be addressed, including: better, much lighter cabs, windows, more efficient A/C (heat pumps?), ancillaries, lights (higher efficiency LEDS), motors, controllers, converters, wheels, bearing, tires, less drag, better energy recovery, roof top high efficiency solar cells to assist the e-storage unit and supply the energy for air circulation while parked in sunlight etc..

Nick Lyons


As you say, heat pumps. Most of it is already there in the existing AC. No brainer for EVs, I think.


They could use stirling cryos for cooling, tinted glass and better insulation, lots of ways to keep cars cool in the summer without using a lot of energy. Just venting the cabin while the car sits parked can help lower the heat load.


Electric A/C units and power steering vs. hydraulic pumped units are already coming up and they help with everything, including ICE cars which have huge parasitic loads on the engine for this stuff.

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Take the Nissan Leaf as a reference case.

It already got heat pumps, low resistance tires and better insulation in order to reduce energy consumption. However, it still does not have LED head lights that might add 4% range but currently is not offered as it would also add between 1000 and 2000 USD to its price. Once the extra cost of adding LED head lights drop to 500 USD they should become standard for EVs as you could finance that expense by dropping one kWh from the battery and still have the same range as an EV with one extra kWh and no LED lights.

The biggest range improvement potential for the Leaf is to reduce its weight. As a rule of thumb, if you can cut 10% weight you will gain about 7% range. The Leaf weights 1522 kg and about 270 kg is the battery and likely another 300 kg is from the electric motor, power electronics, heat pumps, AC and servo steering. By 2015 Nissan has said they will nearly double the energy density of its battery cells. That might be 100 kg saved from the battery pack, another 100 kg might be saved from the electric systems and at least another 100 kg should be possible to save from using more lightweight materials. That is 300 kg or about 20% weight reduction or 20%*0.7 = 14% more range from weight savings. It should be doable without adding any extra cost before 2020.

Another range improver is a solar cell roof. In a northern climate the sun delivers about 1000 W per square meter on a sunny day and twice as much in Mexico. A 3 sq meter solar roof at 20% efficiency could deliver 1000*0.2*3 = 600 Watt on a sunny day. That is about 4% more range on the highway and 6% more range in the city plus it will charge your car partially when parked in the sun. It will probably not be standard on volume cars but it could become a standard added feature especially if the extra price for such a system could come down to 1800 USD which I think will be feasible by 2020.


Improving energy efficiency of heating and lighting is the real low hanging fruit in costs and carbon savings in buildings as most of the technologies are applicable in cars


Leaf does not use a heat pump to heat, it uses a resistive element.

Another possible saving is replacing the myriad brushed DC motors in cars with brushless PM motors, probably about the same cost. Big energy savings for the AC fan motor and radiator fans... and no brushes to wear out or cause electrical noise.

Eventually all belt driven AC compressors will be replaces with variable speed electric ones, as mild hybrids take over the market.


Henrik, where did they say headlights cost $1-2K ?
It seems an awful lot for a pair of headlights.
A single 900 lumen LED costs e15 at this stage (Led only).
A very bright HID headlight is 3000 lumen, so it would take 6 LEDs to match a pair of these = e100 for the LEDs alone.
OK, I suppose it depends on the markup - but there sounds like a load of profit available.

The tight energy budget of EVs will spur the development of all sorts of low energy devices for cars (as detailed in the comments above), which will apply to all car types, which has to be a good thing.

On the subject of roof PV panels, I am really not sure.
How many cars would have room for a 3M^2 panel - 1 M would be more like it, + it would wreck the aesthetics of the car + (it would make the car very hot as a big black slab on the roof will suck in heat (and only convert 20 % to electricity).

If you want solar power, I would recommend on placing the panels on the south facing side of your roof, if you have one, or joint a cooperative (if such exists).

What they really need is a very compact range extender, even 15KW would be enough, to drive on a level road at 60mph, which should be enough for most people.


Here is some interesting results on how the heater affects the LEAF range.

LEAF heater range

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The 1 to 2k extra for LED light might be too high. Audi used to ask a hilarious price for LED head light (over 5k) but now it appears to be standard. The Toyota/Prius currently asks 1450 USD for LED head lights and 17 inch wheels instead of 15 inch. That would suggest the extra price for LED head light is down to between 500 to 1000 USD by now.

You made a calculation error in the example you gave. 80W/12500W is 0.68% not 6.8%. The 12500 Watt at 50 mph may also be too low. The EPA rating of the Leaf’s fuel economy has data on this issue see

Among other things these data show the Leaf use 24kWh to drive 55mph at the highway for 1h and 16m with the AC on. That means the Leaf consumes about 24kWh/1.25h = 19.2 kW. Using that figure and adding LED headlights to the Leaf may only increase range by 80/19200 = 0.42%. If you really stretch it the watt sawing from using LED headlights over conventional ones may be 200 watt and the range benefit will be about 1%.

Then again under ideal driving conditions cruising at 38 mph with the Leaf with the AC off it can run for 3h and 38m using 24kWh. That only consumes a constant 24kWh/3.6h= 6666W. The range gain from adding LED headlight under these circumstances may now be max 200/6666 = 3%.

Good point. I could not find any confirmation that the Leaf has a heat pump so you are right it must be resistive heating which could easily consume 2000 watt instead of between 700 to 1000 watt had the Leaf got a heat pump. The story from SJC kind of confirms that. A heat pump would also add at least 1000 USD to the price of the Leaf but it could save up to 1300 watt which is very significant. Using the cruising scenario above it could improve the rage by about 1300/6666 = 19%! or using the highway case it would be up to 1300/19200 = 6.8% which is still important.

I would think that offering a heat pump as part of the cold weather package for the Leaf should be a priority for the Leaf’s development team. I know now I want to make sure I get that feature before I buy an EV.

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Sorry I made an error: 80/12500 is 0.64% not 0.68%.


OK Henrik, I was out by a factor of 10 which is always embarrassing.
So the power saving at 55mph is say 0.7 % which is nothing to get excited about.
+ no-one drives at 55mpg on the highway in the USA, they all do about 75 (same in Europe), which rather limits the range of the leaf on highways.

The Leaf really needs a little kerosene heater for those cold days, it is just too wasteful to use battery electric power to heat anything as large as a car.
(or a range extender).

What comes out of this is that the leaf is not a car for temperature extremes, or long distances.

This is fine, there are lots of cars that are, so just market the leaf in cities in temperate climate zones.

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Mahonj you are right. The fuel based heater is a good alternative solution and it should also cost less than a heat pump and be faster to implement as an OEM solution. I would prefer the heater to use alcohol perhaps mixed with a certain percentage of water so that the car’s window cleaning system could use the same fluid to keep maintenance as simple as possible.


I'm not familiar with automotive HVAC technology, but just off the top of my head I would think using a heat pump for heating would have limited use since heat pumps only work well for moderate delta T's.

I imagine whatever the constraints are on heat pumps for home heating would be valid also for automotive.

Unfortunately, ground source heat pumps, which are a great way to get efficient heating in cold climates, are only viable for heating a stationary object.


The first car I ever bought,1950 Plymouth Suburban had a gas heater. Carbon buildup in the heater's carburator meant you just about had to clean it after every use.

Sure was nice on cold days though. Instant heat!

I wonder if modern gasoline would produce as much buildup of carbon?

Keith Ruddell

The LEAF has LED lighting. Says so in the article, "The LEAF currently uses an LED system from Valeo and its partner in Japan, Ichikoh, unveiled as a world premier on the LEAF."


Of course, Leaf has LED lights and so should have all BEVs and PHEVs.


After reading the article I posted, I came away with the impression that the LEAF may not be for cold weather, if you want to go anywhere far away.


All current BEVs would operate better in cold weather if they had a gas/fuel heater and/or a mini genset.


My grandfather had a hybrid with a gas heater.
An electric motor started the heater, which was actually a cogenerator where the burning gas generated shaft power 1st (topping) which was sent to the wheels and then the heat was used for the cabin.

mahonj quotes: "A single 900 lumen LED costs e15 at this stage (Led only). A very bright HID headlight is 3000 lumen, so it would take 6 LEDs to match a pair of these = e100 for the LEDs alone."

Every time I look into such claims by the LED makers the comparisons are invalid.

A "40 watt equivalent" LED bulb might put the same amount of light (as a 40 watt incandescent) at the LEDs small aim point but if you put a black ball (with a single small hole) around a 40 w incandescent, the room will be much much dimmer than the bulb with a normal lamp shade (just as dim as with a "40w equiv" LED)
- and the spot itself much dimmer than if the incandescent had a reflector.

White LEDs are handicapped by not actually being white LEDs. All comercial white LEDs are actually blue or UV leds which illuminate phosphors a mixture of phosphors to produce colors that equal white, just like fluorescent lamps.

The phosphor step sacrifices efficiency.

You want direct white light from an LED? make one that emits 2 or more colors that equal white - white itself is not a color.

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Yeah it really good idea because if they use a LED lights in vehicle it really gives a lot of benefits one of that its look elegant and long life than the traditional light bulb..

led holiday lights

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