Xenon Headlights

Lighting technology

German automakers were first to introduce xenon headlights to the United States. The first examples began to appear during the mid-1990’s with the BMW E38 7-series and the Audi A4. The common name of xenon lights comes from the xenon gas that fills the bulb. Xenon headlights are also known as high intensity discharge lighting, or HID.

Xenon lighting is more efficient than halogen lighting, producing more light output and less heat, because of how they work. Unlike a standard incandescent bulb, which has a tungsten steel filament that glows white hot from electricity flow, xenon bulb’s light comes from an arc of electricity. An arc is ignited with high voltage from an external electric igniter, then thereafter the arc is maintained by electricity from a ballast. The ballast converts the cars low voltage DC power into 50-80 volts of AC power that only uses 35 watts in a standard factory automotive lighting setup. The xenon gas inside the bulb allows the arc to ignite quickly and creates a low warm-up time. The xenon gas also produces a whiter-blue tint to the light output.

Most xenon headlights use projector lenses to shape the light output toward the road and out of the eyes of oncoming drivers. In the last five years, German auto manufactures also took advantage of the projectors light controlling capability by adding side to side movement to point the light in the direction of a turn. German xenon headlights are required to have auto-leveling beam control to further reduce the glare of the intense lighting.

Xenon headlights are now available from most of the world’s car manufacturers. Consumers will find them standard on higher-end German cars and optional on most cars. People who have had xenon headlights know that when driving on a dark, windy road, nothing beats the powerful lighting. They also have a much longer lifespan and use less electricity.

Next week, West Coast Auto Enthusiasts will switch gears as we feature a story about a local Yerba Mate Tea company and the positive things they are doing.

~ by WestCoastAutoEnthusiasts on August 1, 2012.

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