We often hear critical remarks about the ECE’s regulations for approving products, and even more often the opinion that the ECE is holding back the advancement of the LED.
But no, we can’t let that stand.
Until now, LEDs in signal lighting in cars have a handicap to overcome: As a general rule, the are permanently installed. This means that if they fail, or there is a small defect, then the entire luminaire needs to be replaced. This is going to change. The licensing requirements of the ECE (Economic Commission forEurope) are planning to gradually include exchangeable LEDs.
The country codes used with the E-mark range from 1 for Germany – presumably in recognition of the country’s leading role in the European auto industry – to the current top number of 58 for Tunisia, which clearly demonstrates the expansion and importance of the ECE far beyond the borders of Europe.
But there is one country code which will never be used again. The code E15 has been “orphaned”. This mark once adorned auto parts which had been inspected in East Germany. It ensured that they were approved for use in all ECE countries. For instance, it was displayed on spare wheels for the Volkswagen group. The E15 mark was never a frequent sight on lights and headlamps.
Back then, approvals were granted by the responsible East German authorities in Dresden, the counterpart of the Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt in Flensburg (the Federal Office for Motor Traffic whose authority extends to all of Germany today).
Automotive lighting is a heavily regulated sector. Virtually everything that functions on the outside must bear the E label. This round symbol with a capital “E” and a small number is the approval mark of the ECE.
Car fans and parts suppliers occasionally complain to me about being led around by the nose by bureaucrats in Brussels, seat of the European Union. But they are being doubly unfair, because the ECE has very little to do with the EU. The ECE is a UN organization and older than the EU. The Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) is headquartered in Geneva, outside the European Union.