In the fight toward better fuel efficiency, automakers have implemented features such as auto start/stop, better transmissions, regenerative braking, turbochargers and hybrid systems. LED headlamps are a low-hanging fruit you could see more often in the future, as the federal government will raise fuel economy standards over the next several years to 35.5 mpg.
The average halogen lamp uses about 55 watts of energy, with a xenon lamp using 35 watts, according to Electronics Weekly. In high-beam mode, halogen bulbs can use up to 240 watts, according to headlamp manufacturer Osram Sylvania. LED lamps promise to reduce energy use by about 75%, according to the manufacturer. That sort of efficiency could add some six miles of EV range to vehicles like the Chevrolet Volt, which currently uses halogen projectors, according to Osram Sylvania.
LED headlamps aren’t new to the industry. In 2008, the fourth-generation Lexus LS 600h hybrid was the first production vehicle to be equipped with LED headlamps for low-beam use. It was closely followed be the Audi A8, Cadillac Escalade and many other models that can have LED daytime running lights or full-on LED headlights.
Solid-state front LED headlamps entered the premium market first because of their marketing edge and because they’re expensive, according to Electronics Weekly. According to the publication, advanced xenon headlights still provide better visibility but don’t offer the distinctive look or marketing panache that LEDs bring. It will take another two to three years for the technology to overtake xenon headlights in terms of performance. Eventually, LEDs could offer even better performance than xenon technology, according to the publication. The cost of LEDs has also come down, as manufacturers have generated better volume and efficiency out of their designs.
The third-generation 2011 Toyota Prius now comes with standard LED headlamps on the top-level trim, which starts at $28,320. The 2011 Nissan Leaf comes with standard LED headlights as well. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV will have an LED option, but there’s no word if we’ll see it on the U.S. model.