Since personal motor vehicles were first developed in the late 1800s, inventors have been busy solving the problem of how to drive at night. Acetylene and oil headlamps were the first solutions, but these devices only gave off a weak, eerie glow that was vulnerable to changes in wind and weather.
Electric headlights made their first appearance around the turn of the century, but reliable filaments and generators delayed their adoption. In 1915, Cadillac came out with a truly ground-breaking feature: electric headlamps that the driver could change from bright to dim simply by flicking a switch.
The latest innovation in auto lighting is LED headlamps. Right now they’re making themselves known on high-dollar rides like Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Jaguar, but other automakers are making them more relevant through a range of vehicles, and you can even pick up some aftermarket lamps if you were so inclined. But are they worth all the hype at this point in time? Here are the pros and cons.
- LED headlights (at least the good ones) give off a clean, clear, intense light that’s especially helpful for seeing further down the road.
- LED bulbs last as much as 200x as long as conventional lights, resulting in long-term cost savings.
- LED light is much more “natural” than that emitted by standard bulbs. This is a feature that most people find desirable.
- LEDs usually cost many times more than other choices.
- LED lights often require modifications to the existing wiring system, such as installing heat sinks.
- As of now, some states are fussy about LEDs. You will need to make sure the amount of light (measured in lumens) is within government regulations.
The cons are expected to disappear as LEDs become common equipment on most vehicles in the coming years. It may not be long at all before halogens and HID lights go the way of acetylene and oil. Time will tell.