Evolution of lighting technologies for vehicles explained

Headlights, taillights and accessory lights used on vehicles have changed dramatically over time. The technology has evolved from simple to sophisticated, and the performance of the lights has been enhanced dramatically with each new technological introduction. Like most things in life, you’d never want to take a step backwards to old technology, but it’s important to know how lights have evolved into what we have today.

4 major lighting technologies used on vehicles

#1 Incandescent: In its day, the simple incandescent bulb seemed like a technological marvel, and it served well for many years. Basic incandescent bulbs are seldomly used for applications like headlights anymore. In fact, it would be difficult to find them for many vehicle applications. Incandescent bulbs worked by heating a filament inside a glass globe. Compared to newer technologies, incandescent bulbs have relatively short service lives.

#2 Halogen: You might be surprised to learn that halogen bulbs are higher-grade incandescent bulbs in design. They are more sophisticated incandescent bulbs with a tungsten filament sealed into a compact globe filled with an inert gas. Even though halogens are related to incandescent bulbs in terms of technology, they are often considered a separate class in how lights are marketed to consumers. Halogens are currently the standard lighting technology found on many vehicles. 

#3 High-Intensity Discharge (HID): HID lights seemed like a technological breakthrough because they are much brighter and longer lasting than halogen. These bulbs produce an electric arc between two electrodes contained in a globe filled with xenon gas. You may find these bulbs in the marketplace referred to as xenon lights. While the brighter light output and longer service life compared to halogen seems great, HID lights have two significant disadvantages, specifically they start dim and require a warm-up period to reach full brightness and they tend to lose brightness as they age. 

#4 Light-Emitting Diode (LED): Technically speaking, LEDs are not bulbs in the true sense of the word. They are light emitting diodes that generate light through a process called electroluminescence when electric passes through the diode. Unlike as with incandescent or halogen bulbs, LED lights do not generate heat while creating light. They operate at a very cool temperature. LED lights are the new breakthrough in lighting because they produce brighter light, last longer and draw less electrical power than incandescent, halogen and HID bulbs. 

The future of lighting for vehicles

Many vehicle owners are upgrading to LED lights for headlights, taillights and accessory lights. LED lights offer distinct advantages over other lighting technologies. After all, when you can choose lights that produce brighter light, last longer and consume less electricity, why would you choose anything else?