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Lexus is first to deploy LED-based car headlamps

The luxury car manufacturer is introducing the first series production vehicle to feature LED-based headlamps this spring.

In the US this spring, LED-based headlamps are finally set for their first genuine commercial introduction.

Japanese luxury car manufacturer Lexus is launching a series production car, the 2008 LS 600h L, which will contain low-beam headlamps based on high-brightness LEDs.

Although LED-based headlamps have been in development for many years, they have, until now, only been seen in concept cars.

Daytime running lamps based on solid-state lighting technology have been in production for nearly three years, since first appearing on a high-end Audi model (see related story). However, the technical demands on headlamp applications are much more severe.

Partly as a result of that, regulatory clearance for LED-based headlamps has thus far only been gained in the US market. In Europe and Japan, the regulatory hurdles are expected to be cleared in 2008.

Forward-lighting applications, and headlamps in particular, have long been identified as a key market for makers of high-brightness white LEDs. Chip manufacturers such as Philips Lumileds, Nichia and Cree have all been working on the technology for years. Gaining acceptance in the automotive market is particularly difficult, given tough regulations and the extremely long design cycles of the industry.

According to LED industry analyst Bob Steele, the market for automotive applications of high-brightness LEDs was worth some $500 million in 2005, a figure expected to double to $1 billion by 2010.

Applications such as rear stop, turn and tail lamps now represent a significant market opportunity for LED makers thanks largely to adoption of the technology in popular cars such as the Honda Accord and Volkswagen Passat.

Headlamps have therefore been seen as the "final frontier" for automotive applications of LEDs. Chip makers will be hoping that the move by Lexus signals a more widespread adoption of the technology over the next few years.

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