The laser lighting units will be optional on the new BMW i8 electric sports car
Laser lights are more than twice as powerful as older xenon units
BMW has plans to provide laser lighting technology on other models in the future, including the 7-series
The BMW i8 will be the first production car to be sold with advanced laser headlights when it goes on sale later this year.
The new laser headlights have been developed in partnership with German lighting specialist Osram, and are set to become an option on BMW’s new plug-in hybrid sportscar. They are claimed to provide vastly improved lighting intensity over existing LED lights, which will feature as standard on the i8, by offering a more constant beam of light.
BMW lighting manager Thomas Hausmann says the new laser headlamps operate at up to 344 lux in high beam mode, as opposed to the 180 lux offered by the latest LED headlamps.
By comparison, older Xenon headlamps turn out 120 lux, while conventional halogen headlamps boast a maximum 100 lux in high beam mode.
The light created by the new generation headlamp is emitted by laser diodes and a fluorescent phosphor material. It is described as being monochromatic, meaning the light waves possess the same length. This leads to a greater luminance and intensity, particularly over longer distances.
Hausmann says the monochromatic properties of the new laser headlamps allow them to illuminate the road for a distance of up to 600 metres, or up to double the distance of LED units. The more stable properties of the light beam also enable more precise horizontal and vertical adjustment for adaptive functions, such as anti-glare high beam.
During a preview of the new headlamps in France this week, BMW admitted the original intensity of the laser beam, which can reach over 400 lux, has been reduced slightly to decrease glare on reflective road signs.
As well as offering increased lighting intensity, the new laser headlamps are also claimed to be 30 per cent more energy efficient than the latest generation of LED headlamps, offering approximately 170 lumens (a photometric unit of light output) per watt.
Following their debut as an option on the the i8, BMW’s laser headlamps are planned to filter down into other regular BMW models, including next year’s sixth-generation 7-series, which will be previewed in concept car form at the Beijing motor show in April.
BMW rival Audi, which also operates a partnership with Osram, indicated its intention to place laser headlamps into production by previewing the technology on the Sport quattro Laserlight concept at the CES show in January.