Safety & Compliance

QuickSpin: LED Headlights vs. Halogen

A comparison between a set of standard halogen headlamps and LED headlamps reveals, well, there is no comparison.

October 2014, TruckingInfo.com - Test Drives

by Jim Park, Equipment Editor - Also by this author

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Compare the side-of-the-road lighting between both sets of lights on high and low beam. Then notice how the LEDs light the detail at the far end of the road, where the halogen lamps seem to just fade out — even on high beam. The color of the light is important, too. The LED light is closer to that of daylight, rather than the yellowish cast from the halogen lamps. This is exactly as it appeared to me in the tests.
Compare the side-of-the-road lighting between both sets of lights on high and low beam. Then notice how the LEDs light the detail at the far end of the road, where the halogen lamps seem to just fade out — even on high beam. The color of the light is important, too. The LED light is closer to that of daylight, rather than the yellowish cast from the halogen lamps. This is exactly as it appeared to me in the tests.

Because headlamps are something drivers use every day, we arranged with Truck-Lite to see if LED headlamps are really as good as they are reputed to be. Manufacturers such as Truck-Lite use sensitive instruments to measure light output and the like, but I just wanted to see with my own two eyes what kind of a difference they made in night vision.

Watching headlamps being assembled at Truck-Lite's Falconer, N.Y., plant, I was amazed at the size of the light-producing part of the assembly. There are six LEDs in each assembly, four in the low-beam reflector and two in the high. Each LED is no more than a quarter-inch square, which totally doesn't reconcile with the amount of light they produce. Truck-Lite says they will last about 30,000 hours — about 10 years of average service for an over-the-road truck.

Truck-Lite's senior vice president and chief technology officer, Brad Van Riper, supervises the headlamp changeover between the test runs at the company's Falconer, N.Y., assembly plant.
Truck-Lite's senior vice president and chief technology officer, Brad Van Riper, supervises the headlamp changeover between the test runs at the company's Falconer, N.Y., assembly plant.

The test procedure was pretty simple. We stopped the truck at the same spot on a dark, deserted stretch of road and took a few photographs from inside the cab to illustrate the difference between the two sets of headlights. We used the same Freightliner Cascadia day-cab, which underwent a headlamp transplant between the test runs. We replaced the entire assembly with the halogen lights with a module containing the LED lights.

The photos were taken with the same camera using the same settings, so the camera's exposure controls were nullified and would not affect the outcome. The settings for all the photos are as follows: Canon 5D in Manual mode; 24 mm focal length, ISO 400, 15-second exposure, manual white balance. In other words, what you see in the photos is what the camera saw; no digital trickery was applied after the fact.

What jumped out at me immediately was detail visible just off the road, where the trees are on the left in the LED photos. They were not even visible with the halogens. That gives a driver a real edge when it comes to spotting wildlife lurking at roadside or catching signage in the distance.

The difference was equally obvious on an Interstate highway. The wide roadway and the sloping roadside were beautifully lit. I think what truly made a difference was the color of the light. Truck-Lite says the color temperature of the LED light — the blue to red shift in the light spectrum — is very close to the color temperature of sunlight, around 6,000 degrees Kelvin, compared to halogen at around 4,000 K. Technically, they are not much "brighter," but they sure appear to be because of the color.

Interestingly, driving on a busier stretch of two-lane road with opposing traffic, not once did I get a flash of the high beams from oncoming cars annoyed by my brighter lights. I'm told this has a lot to do with the reflector design, which throws light where it's needed -- straight down the road and low and wide — rather than into the eyes of oncoming drivers.

While they are considerably more expensive up front than halogen headlamps, LEDs will long out-live the first service life of the truck and will give drivers night lighting like they have never seen before.

Comments

  1. 1. John Bloomster [ October 24, 2014 @ 10:21AM ]

    Recently took a road trip with a newer vehicle having LED headlights, only issue was in the state of Ohio a few drivers did flash the high beams because of the amount of light, did notice on high beams I was able to see the tops of the rows of corn, unable to see them before with older headlights. LED is the way to go.

  2. 2. bob Kelleher [ October 24, 2014 @ 01:14PM ]

    The only problem I see with LED lighting is that it does not heat up like incandescent of Halogen headlamps. This could be an issue in the winter months with ice forming on the lenses.

  3. 3. nhelaf [ October 24, 2014 @ 01:34PM ]

    Kelvin isn't measured in degrees.

  4. 4. Gil Wortsmann [ October 24, 2014 @ 04:36PM ]

    Yes. Kelvin temperature starts at absolute zero and the numbers are expressed in terms of Kelvin, not degrees.

  5. 5. Dave Schnurr [ October 26, 2014 @ 05:28AM ]

    I drive a snow plow the led lights are bright but cover up with snow as they don't generate any heat.

  6. 6. Aaron Reding [ November 27, 2014 @ 06:12PM ]

    I think all of these led or halogen light should be illegal. The lights are too bright when a vehicle is coming toward you. It doesn't even help to flip my rear view mirror as it lights up my car if they are behind me. When they are in the other lane the brightness of the light shines in through the side mirror. I have 3 children and fear for our safety every time I encounter a car with these led lights for this I believe they should be ill eagle.

  7. 7. Jesse [ July 23, 2015 @ 08:45PM ]

    Im with Aaron above f*** headlights all together, led, halogen, those things are all blinding. My kids have to wear sunglasses 24/7.

  8. 8. Steve [ August 06, 2015 @ 01:19AM ]

    Aaron,

    Halogens are what have been on cars for decades. Are you suggesting we do away with headlights altogether? Perhaps you should try Amish country.

  9. 9. Jeff [ September 07, 2015 @ 09:19AM ]

    People complain about the brightness of cars, well I know how to adjust headlights and I never get flashed to turn off my lowbeams... what it is I know people who got super white off road bulbs and put them in and did not adjust the lights to properly light the road in front of them and they complain all the time that when on high beam they can see the tops of buildings and not the road., needless to say I am not going to help people adjust their lights but I will flash you cause your an idiot who wants to be like everybody else and have super bright lights.. I have super white halogens and they say off road use only and I have no trouble with traffic.... LED's just cost more so I have not tried them yet.

  10. 10. Tony [ November 19, 2015 @ 01:30AM ]

    Sorry but you cant take a photo of LED light with a digital camera and be accurate. Digital imaging processors are very sensitive to the wavelengths of LEDs. The light is exaggerated from the different wavelengths emitted. Take a picture of the dimmest LED light you can find and it will wash the image out. LED headlights will light up the area in front of your vehicle very good but they are not able to carry the light as distant as halogen light does. In order to project LED light far away headlight needs to be aimed higher defeating the whole purpose since it blinds oncoming traffic.

 

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