The automobile industry is a natural breeding ground for competition. Whether it is the newest innovation and latest design, automakers all vie for the public’s attention. Three months ago, BMW announced that it would install laser headlamps into the i8 plug-in hybrid supercar; this prompted Audi to release a statement at last month’s International Consumer Electronic Show that it, too, fully intended to make laser headlamps its new standard.
BMW issued the challenge, and, conjuring the spirit of Barney Stinson, Audi said, “Challenge accepted.”
Ulrich Hackenberg, Audi’s technical development chief, spoke at the ICES to boldly state that his company would be “the first car brand to put laser light into production.” Audi intends for the 2014 E-tron Quattro LeMans racecar to have the laser headlamps for its first competition in April. Though production vehicles are also part of Hackenberg’s guarantee, he did not indicate a model or introduction date.
The interest in laser headlamps has grown as a result of the potential for energy efficiency while providing greater illumination. A laser diode can emit 170 lumens per watt, and an LED can generate only 100 lumens – a lumen being a unit of visible light. This provides a much greater range of visibility. Current Audi research asserts that the company’s laser high beams have a 500-meter range, which is approximately twice the distance of LED high beams.
As with any new product, the only setback is the potential expense for installing laser headlamps in place of current LED technology. Companies want to be judicious with their investments by looking at both short-term and long-term costs. Naturally, as the supply becomes greater, costs will fall; however, it is uncertain how long it would take it for market conditions to allow for such a decrease.
Not dissuaded by conjecture, Audi continues to work diligently to fulfill Hackenberg’s promise for the April debut of the laser headlamp.
We at Audi Cary will be sure to keep you abreast of the race between our great brand and those other German automakers. What do you think of laser headlights? Are you more interested in this technology than LED?