BMW working on laser headlights to replace LED headlights

BMW i8 Concept laser headlights

BMW is currently developing laser light as a progression from LED technology. Laser light could offer more safety for drivers whilst providing energy saving benefits and therefore improving fuel economy.

After LED technology, laser light is the next logical step in car light development. BMW engineers are currently already working on the introduction of laser light as a further pioneering technology for series production within a few years.

The OEM notes that laser lighting is radically different from sunlight, and also from the various types of artificial lighting in common use today. For a start, laser lighting is monochromatic, which means that the light waves all have the same length, and it is also what is known as a ‘coherent’ light source, meaning that its waves have a constant phase difference.

As a result, laser lighting can produce a near-parallel beam with intensity a thousand times greater than that of conventional LEDs. In vehicle headlights, these characteristics can be used to implement entirely new functions.

Also, the high inherent efficiency of laser lighting means that laser headlights have less than half the energy consumption of LED headlights. Whereas LED lighting generates only around 100 lumens (a photometric unit of light output) per watt, laser lighting generates approximately 170 lumens.

Due to the size of laser diodes – one hundred times smaller than conventional LED lighting – headlights could in theory be much smaller in terms of height and width. However, BMW engineers do not plan to do this, instead reducing the depth of the headlight allowing them to be incorporated into new body styling designs.

And there’s no risk to humans, animals or wildlife when used in car lighting. This is mostly due to the light not being emitted directly, but initially converted into a form that is suitable for use in road traffic. The resulting light is very bright and white.

The laser headlight technology has already been previewed on the BMW i8 Concept, with the development expected to be used on the 2014 i8 production model. A key consideration of developing laser lighting is safety, with BMW considering eye safety as a top priority. Therefore, the light emitted from the laser diode will be converted by using a fluorescent phosphor material inside the headlight to produce a very bright and pleasing pure white light. This way, BMW can implement familiar and new lighting functions such as Adaptive Headlights, ‘Dynamic Light Spot’ and the ‘Anti Dazzle High Beam Assist’ as well as allowing BMW to develop entirely new functions with minimal power consumption.

Also see – BMW i8 Petrol-Hybrid Concept Car unveiled

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