March 12, 2020 | Issue 6
It's full beam ahead
Our Tech Talk expert Adam Hockley, Parts Product Manager at Volkswagen Group UK, looks at the history and evolution of headlamps, from their origin to the modern day.
With the evolution of ever-changing vehicle technology and modern design it’s often easy to overlook the humble headlamp. Not only must its design fit the flow and lines of the vehicle, but it must also function at the level customers have become accustomed to.
We have come a long way since the introduction of the first headlamp in the 1880s. From an acetylene lamp lit by hand and housed to protect it from the oncoming wind, through to the latest laser matrix lamps fitted to the Audi R8 LMX, utilising a powerful blue laser that helps light the road ahead for up to 600m.
Whilst laser lighting may not be necessary on all but the world’s most sought-after supercars, HID (High Intensity Discharge) and LED headlamps are commonplace on UK roads. Once reserved for the manufacturers high end models, more and more vehicles are coming equipped with these technologies.
However, with the OEM popularity it has become increasingly common for consumers to upgrade existing halogen headlamps by fitting kits normally consisting of HID bulbs and ballasts (regulating the voltage supplied to bulbs).
It’s important to be aware that all headlamps must be type approved to ECE regulation 98. Once fitted they should have a headlamp cleaning and a self-levelling function, along with the ability for the dipped beam to stay illuminated when the main beam is operated.
In summary, current legislation does not allow you to modify or convert an existing halogen headlamp for use with HID or LED Bulbs. A headlamp designed and approved for use with these bulbs must be sourced and fitted in accordance with the rules stated.
Over time a headlamp’s effectiveness will decline, particularly as most modern headlamps are manufactured from clear plastics. Whilst these are extremely effective for light transmission, the clear lamp covers can dull with weathering and poor cleaning methods.
The lenses and reflectors inside can also deteriorate after thousands of heat cycles. This leads to poor illumination of the road and the potential to dazzle oncoming road users, resulting in an increased risk of accidents.
DVSA data shows that nearly 2.5 million vehicle MoT failures are attributed to headlamps. Many will be simple bulb failures, a number of which will be down to alignment, but damaged or aged lamps can also cause the light emission to be low enough to not meet the required standards.
TPS are aware that sometimes the costs associated with headlamps can often lead drivers of older cars to fit aftermarket products, so that’s why we have introduced Aged Parts Pricing.
Headlamps history timeline:
- 1880sThe first acetylene headlamp was introduced.
- 1915Henry Ford’s Model T is the first mass produced vehicle to be fitted with magneto powered headlamps.
- 1940sThe first modern sealed beam units appeared in Europe, allowing the scope for better aerodynamics and designs.
- 1962The halogen headlamp is invented, still the most popular headlamp on UK roads.
- 1991First introduction of High Intensity Discharge (HID) headlamps – more than 200% brighter than halogen but limited to premium models.
- 2007Japanese manufacturer Lexus fits the first LED headlamps to a production car.
- 2013Full matrix LED headlamps arrive with features that include a camera relaying the information of oncoming headlamps or tail light.
- 2015Laser lights incorporate blue laser technology - up to 1,000 times brighter than LEDs.
The innovative IQ.Light headlamp system has been announced as an option on the new Mk8 Golf.
Originally only available on the Volkswagen Premium SUV and the Touareg, the IQ.Light LED Matrix has a number of key features including an interactive light control that makes night-time driving safer.
Utilising a matrix of individually controlled Light-Emitting Diodes (LED), the dipped headlamp is formed by a circuit board with 48 LEDs, while the board for the main beam has 27 LEDs.
As well as these, there are a number of LEDs within the IQ.Light system that are utilised for other functions.
These include near zone illumination and signal functions, daytime running and position lights, alongside animated direction indicators. In total, each headlamp has 128 LEDs.
With deliveries from April 2020, the Golf and its IQ.Light technology look sure to take the spotlight.
For further details on Aged Parts Pricing or to enquire about any Volkswagen Group headlamps from halogen to matrix, contact your local TPS Centre for the latest information.