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LED expected to remain key technology for ambient lighting
The collaborations between various stakeholders in the automotive interior lighting industry clearly indicates LED will remain the dominant technology for ambient lighting applications, at least over the short term. IHS Markit recently spoke to several automotive lighting suppliers to understand what kind of LED technology next generation ambient lighting systems will feature. Tobias Nickel, SVP marketing and communication at Dräxlmaier Group, a German automotive lighting manufacturer, told IHS Markit, "At the moment LEDs are state-of-the-art and the magic lies in the controlling of LEDs to have a homogeneous result. ISELED is another standard becoming more important. OLED technology is too expensive at the moment, but it will have its niche in future vehicle concepts." When asked if Dräxlmaier was planning to increase production capacity for LED-based interior lighting modules, Nickel said that the company was already producing a high number of LED ambient light systems, and considering it is a made-to-order manufacturer, "would increase capacities based on incoming orders".
Other lighting suppliers too believe LED technology has advanced a great deal over the years, in terms of functionality and cost. LEDs can be designed to have any spectrum that can deliver good color quality. The technology is fundamentally dimmable, both instantaneously and continuously. Besides, the small source size enables better optical control. These performance features, coupled with the high efficacy and declining cost - compared with rival technologies such as OLED - make LED an efficient technology for interior lighting applications.
Improving luminous efficacy (measured in lumens per Watt or lm/W) is another factor driving LED adoption. According to a report released by the US Department of Energy (DOE) in January this year, the luminous efficacy of LED continues to improve toward the practical limit of 255 lm/W for phosphor converted LED architectures and the ultimate theoretical limit of 325 lm/W for direct emitting architectures. These improvements are the result of several ongoing breakthroughs and research and development across the value chain. Commenting on the cost factor, Jamie Fox, principal analyst at IHS Markit, says, "LEDs are becoming a little less expensive each year. LED prices have been declining slowly and steadily, with a single digit price erosion per year." He adds, "Mainland Chinese players can cause further price reductions in some markets."
Currently, most OEMs prefer LED technology for static ambient lighting. This trend is likely to continue for dynamic ambient lighting as well given the continuing evolution of LEDs in terms of software and electronics integration. Model year 2018 Audi A8 features Matrix LED ambient lighting from Hella. The model also features matrix LED reading lamp. Audi A7 Sportback also features ambient lighting package from Hella, offered as an option. The model's interior ambient lighting features RGB LED modules, which enable the driver to adjust the colors of light according to their preference. The Audi A7 features a touch-free integrated reading light in the ceiling center whose brightness can be individually adjusted. Other premium car makers such as Lexus also offer soft LED-based ambient lighting in models such as LS 500, LS 500 F SPORT, LS 500h.
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