What do people like in a car? Well, wheels and colors arguably come first. But lights are also becoming more and more important, in other words headlights and rear lights. Apart from the impact on the design there is the upside that lighting has improved overall. Reduced purely to its effect, there are some things that are overrated, though. Here are five examples:
- Color temperature. For about 25 years bluish light has been setting the trend. It started with the first xenon headlights, which, for physical reasons, emitted very blue light. Experts spoke of high color temperatures, measured in kelvin. At the same time, there was also a small fan group for yellowish all-weather lamps. Both tones were and are sometimes said to have truly miraculous effects. The fact is, however, that extreme color temperatures have no benefits. According to scientific studies, around 3,500 kelvin provides a slight advantage for the eye. Your eyes adapt to bluish or other tones without any other significant changes happening.2
- Lenses. In headlights with lenses, also called projection systems, advanced functions are possible. We are talking about such things as glare-free high beam, adaptive light distribution or cornering lights. Without these additional features they don’t offer any benefits over normal, lens-free headlights. If these reflection systems are large, they often get even more light onto the road.
- Electrical output. How many watts a lamp consumes says little about the amount of light it emits. The H7 halogen lamp gets more out of 55 watts than an H4 with the same wattage. Xenon gets around double out of 30 or 40 watts compared to the H7. And modern LED headlights even more: there are those that draw 12 to 15 watts and conjure up as much light as an H4 that needs four times as much.
- Near-field illumination. Many people like a lot of light directly in front of the car and it makes them feel good when driving at night. The problem is, though, that the light used for the near field might well be missing in other places. This is especially true for halogen headlights which then don’t illuminate the road very far ahead. In xenon systems there is enough luminous flux for a few lumens to be pinched for the first few meters in front of the car. And in LED models, additional light-emitting diodes can carry out that task. However, the main thing to keep in mind is that the near field is not important. The light should reach as far as possible.
- Fog lights. Some swear by them and claim they can perform miracles. Thanks to their low installation, fog lights apparently “shine through underneath the fog” or dramatically extend visibility in thick fog some other way. This also includes the view that yellow light is better in fog. The truth is that fog lights only produce a little less reflected glare compared to dipped beam. Visibility isn’t better at all, though, so most drivers also use dipped beam headlights on top of that. At most, fog lights illuminate the side of the road a bit better. Today, they’re mainly design elements. For some vehicle models they cost just as much as cornering lights. The extra charge for these lights is money better invested.