“But they’re totally outdated” is something you’ll often hear about halogen headlights. For most drivers the LED is the only modern technology, not only on cars. They don’t want to deal with anything else.

There’s no doubt that the light-emitting diode has a bright future – in the truest sense of the word. However, if you strip it down to its core, the light, the picture is not quite so clear-cut. Halogen headlights provide enough light and many can even keep up with simple LED systems.

The reason why halogen light has survived for so long is quite simple: money. The technology is simply a lot cheaper than LED. Experts expect almost 60 percent of cars around the world to still be equipped with halogen in 2023. And even in 2030, the technology will still be original equipment. Now, the emphasis needs to be on “around the world”. The booming markets of Asia cry out for affordable cars. Every penny counts there. Even expected significant price reductions for light-emitting diodes will not be able to make up for the advantage of incandescent lamps.

The situation is different, of course, on the traditional, rather high-priced markets of Europe and North America. The LED will continue its success story there – in the upper vehicle classes anyway, and certainly across the world. In all this, xenon will almost completely fall by the wayside. Only in China and other emerging countries in Asia, headlights with this generally very powerful technology will continue to be used in new vehicles. In Europe they will no longer be developed. Xenon costs at least the same as LED and you can’t expect any major cost savings compared to this semiconductor light.

High light output

But what does all this mean for buyers and owners of cars? An important message is that halogen lamps by no means provide just a weak glimmer. They are quite powerful and many headlights can compete with simpler LED systems. Measurements in the light laboratory show just that. However, halogen headlights only maintain their level if the lamps are state of the art and meet the regulations. An old rule of headlight developers goes: the lamp is just as important as the headlight itself. Brand products such as the ones from Osram take this into account. And with upgrade lamps such as the Night Breaker, drivers get the most out of what is possible with halogen. A different story is the products from no-name manufacturers, or extremely blue “wonder lamps”. Often they provide either a lot of heat or a lot of blue, but little usable light. So it’s worth paying attention to (light) quality when replacing burnt out lamps.

And what about when buying a car? High-performance headlights in LED technology are certainly worthwhile. Just as it made sense in previous years to go for xenon lights. Something else you get in sophisticated LED systems apart from more light is clever design effects – mostly clever, mind you. Those of you who can do without either or want to for economical reasons will by no means get hopelessly outdated and feeble technology if you choose halogen as standard equipment.

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