LED Headlights - Now Available to the Rest of Us

Scott Benjamin

No matter where you are, take just a few seconds to look around you. There's a good chance that right at this very moment you'll be able to spot at least one place (if not several) where light emitting diode (LED) technology is used. Some of the most common applications are as status indicator lights on electronic components, such as computers, televisions and virtually all handheld devices. The bright light produced by LEDs is also used for traffic signals, flashlights, aisle floor markers in airplanes and movie theatres, and for a while, LEDs were even a popular addition to kid's sneakers. Anyway, you get the idea -- LEDs are everywhere.

Of course, automotive applications are plentiful, too. LEDs are used for interior illumination, system status indicators, daytime running lights, fog lamps and perhaps, the most common automotive application to date, brake lamps. So what's missing from this short list? LED headlamps.

Rather than tell you the reasons why automotive manufacturers haven't made use of LED technology for headlamps (and there are several reasons, by the way) let me just tell you that they're officially on the way. In fact, even the 2010 Toyota Prius will offer LED headlamps as an option.

Let me clarify ... the 2010 Toyota Prius is not the first car to be equipped with LED headlamps. Audi holds that distinction by offering the first full-LED headlamp in the Audi R8. However, the LED headlamps are an expensive option (I've seen reports of prices that range between $5,000 and $7,100) in an already expensive car -- MSRP for an Audi R8 is between $109,000 and $118,000, depending on the transmission you select. Another example of an LED headlamp-equipped vehicle is the Cadillac Escalade Platinum Edition -- the first SUV to offer this relatively new technology. This particular version of the Escalade retails between $81,000 and $88,000. I think there may be a Lexus offering LED headlamps as well?

Anyway, you can see that, to date, LED headlamps are only offered as expensive options on high-end vehicles. So, why would Toyota choose to include these advanced headlamps on its relatively low-cost Toyota Prius? According to Toyota, "The available headlamps in the 3rd generation Prius utilize LED technology in order to consume less energy and produce more light. LEDs provide instant illumination and are able to retain 90% luminance over their 15-year life span."

So there you have it. LED headlamps are effective, efficient and durable.

A 15-year lifespan?!? That's pretty awesome. I can't even begin to count the number of burned-out headlamps I've had to replace over the years. And now, since I don't have to buy an Audi R8 to enjoy the benefits of LED headlamps, it's like I just saved $100,000. Wait ... does it really work that way?

More LED stuff: How Light Emitting Diodes Work Why are they replacing all of the traffic lights in my town? How OLEDs Work 2010 Toyota Prius Review and Prices 2008 Audi R8