Sales of automotive LEDs set to double

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The sales of LEDs to automotive suppliers is set to double within the next 10 years, according to a new report published by IMS Research. Although most automotive LEDs are currently applied on the interior of cars, the energy-efficient light source will now be used more extensively on the exterior as brake lights, headlights and daytime running lights.

In the past, LEDs were too dull to be a practical solution for many applications, requiring a group of more than 70 individual LEDs to provide a bright enough light source. Improvements in technology, however, mean that as few as 10 LEDs can now act as rear or brake lights, allowing manufacturers to benefit from the low power-consumption and long lifetime of LEDs.

Whereas most traditional light sources such as incandescent bulbs and halogen lamps need to be changed regularly, LEDs typically last longer than the average car.

‘People are more concerned about energy savings,’ Jamie Fox, the report’s author, told ‘LEDs give a greener image.’

They are also thought to look better than other light sources, with a softer lighting effect. Because of their small size, manufacturers can also group them together in attractive designs.

The LED lights have the additional advantage of a quicker start-up time of just 20ms compared to 250ms for a tungsten bulb. This fast response is particularly important for brake lights signalling to the car behind to stop moving, giving the driver more time to respond to a potential accident. Overall, the time difference equates to 24 feet stopping distance for a car travelling at 60 miles per hour.

The figures look promising. Basing his calculations on observations at the Frankfurt car trade fair and interviews with LED and car manufacturers, Fox predicts the sales of LEDs for exterior applications will equal that of interior applications by 2013, with a total market value of more than $1.3bn. Both Volkswagen and Daimler Chrysler have already started to implement LEDs.

One of the biggest factors affecting this growth could be the wider acceptance across Europe of ‘daytime running lights’, which are currently popular in Canada, Finland, Sweden and the USA. The lights, which run throughout the daytime, are reported to make oncoming vehicles more conspicuous and reduce the number of road accidents.

It is now looking increasingly likely that these lights could now become a required standard across all EU countries. LEDs would be the obvious choice for these lights, which could attain a predicted market share of $100m, which is similar to that revenue for rear lighting applications.

The report, entitled ‘LEDs in automotive applications’ is available from