BMW's new laser lighting tech revealed

TOBY HAGON
Last updated 07:25 22/02/2014
BMW's new laser headlights are more poweful than standard high-beam lights.

LIGHTS ON: BMW's new laser headlights are more poweful than standard high-beam lights.

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BMW's new laser headlights are more poweful than standard high-beam lights.

BMW will become the first car maker offer advanced laser headlamps on a series production car when its new i8 goes on sale later this year.

The new laser headlamps, developed in partnership with German lighting specialist Osram and set to become an option on BMW's new plug-in hybrid sportscar, are claimed to provide vastly improved lighting intensity over existing LED headlamps, which will feature as standard on the i8, by offering a more constant beam of light.

According to Thomas Hausmann, manager of exterior lighting development at BMW, the new laser headlamps operate at up to 344 lux in high beam mode, as opposed to the to the latest LED headlamps which are rated at 180 lux.

By comparison, older Xenon headlamps turn out 120 lux, while conventional halogen headlamps boast a maximum 100 lux in high beam mode.

The light created by the new generation headlamp is emitted by laser diodes and a fluorescent phosphor material. It is described as being monochromatic, meaning the light waves possess the same length. This leads to a greater luminance and intensity, particularly over longer distances.     

Hausmann says the monochromatic properties of the new laser headlamps enables them to illuminate the road for a distance of up to 600 metres, or up to double that of LED units. The more stable properties of the light beam also enable more precise horizontal and vertical adjustment for adaptive functions such as anti-glare high beam, in which the projectory of beam of light is automatically altered when an on-coming car is detected.

During a preview of the new headlamps in France this week, BMW admitted the original intensity of the laser beam, which can reach over 400 lux, has been reduced slightly to decrease glare on reflective road signs.

As well as offering increased lighting intensity for improved night time vision, the new laser headlamps are also claimed to be 30 per cent more energy efficient than the latest generation of LED headlamps, offering approximately 170 lumens (a photometric unit of light output) per watt.

Following their debut as an option on the the i8, BMW's laser headlamps are planned to filter down into other regular BMW models, including next year's sixth-generation 7-series, which will be previewed in concept car form at the Beijing motor show in April.

BMW rival Audi, which also co-operates with Osram, indicated its intention to place laser headlamps into production by previewing the technology on and updated version of its Sport Quattro concept at the Detroit motor show last month.

BMW laser lights

-Fairfax New Australia

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