Over the past year or three, one of the most debated topics amongst car enthusiasts has probably been that of the implementation of LED exterior lighting. Most specifically the subject is the daytime running lamps that are rapidly becoming a strategic component of the corporate face of a brand. When technological advances create solutions that allow a stylist to have a bit less restriction from the manufacturing and legislative shackles to freedom of expression – they often go to town in a design arms race.
Not just a pretty face
The front end of a vehicle has a whole host of functional objectives to meet, plus an equally long list of legislative compliance imperatives to deal with.
Ingredients comprise aerodynamics, cooling efficiency, number plate positioning, crash strength, pedestrian cushioning, manufacturing feasibility and a sprinkling of other requirements, all garnished with a badge.
The lights themselves need to contain multiple functions and be located specifically at certain height, width and separation dimensions, applied to both the whole unit and those individual internal lighting components.
With the liberty of LED technology – which can pretty much be made to the shape of a swish of the stylist’s CAD system of choice – the resulting designs have been truly illuminating; and quick – the haste to apply to the entire range seems to have been an unwritten challenge in the industry.
The first lamps of the motoring era were fuelled, the dawn of the motor car being before electrical lighting. By 1920 they were starting to catch on (clearly an optional extra). Other milestones were the sealed beam unit in the 1930’s, halogen bulbs in the early 1960’s and most recently (late 1980’s) the Xenon ellipsoidal High Intensity Discharge (HID) solution and this century; the Light Emitting Diode.
Also a handsome derriere
Moving backwards, the rear end LED solution has been fitted from around 1999, firstly with the centre high-mounted stop lamp (taking advantage of the quicker reaction time of the diode), but now including the regular brake and also indicator functions. As at the front this has given rise to the successful combination of form and function. Even the estate variant, with the requirement of creating a large luggage capacity and subsequently all the flair of a box on wheels seems less par for the course so there is now a real opportunity to look cool whilst taking a new wardrobe home – or down to the tip at the other end of its life.
Only rarely have estates been attention-grabbing (a famous example in motor sport is reported here) and then usually for shock rather than style. 21st Century estate cars – this is Toyota’s large estate car homepage – have applied this new technology to ensure that one’s heart needn’t sink with the requirement to transport dogs, business equipment or wardrobes as well as the family.