While designers, engineers and other technical personnel are supposed to work together in creating innovative, salable products, few examples are as obvious as the work that is being done at Audi AG in Ingolstadt, Germany. Specifically, it’s work on lighting, on the deployment of light-emitting diodes (LEDs).
The Pikes Peak quattro, a concept vehicle, was revealed at the North American International Auto Show in 2003. It features a strip of LEDs forming fog lights. (which was to take production form in the Q7), Shortly thereafter, Audi began manufacturing the 12-cylinder version of its A8 sedan with the first-ever LED-based daytime running lights (DRLs). Admits Dr. Wolfgang Huhn, Head of the Light and Visibility Department at Audi, “A lot of people initially viewed this development as a mere marketing gimmick. Yet everyone who has seen these lights in action is not only astonished by the excellent output, but also thrilled with the homogenous distribution of light and the agreeable, daylight-esque color of the light.”
So what are LEDs? They’re semicon-ductors—small, about 1-mm2—that convert electricity into light. They are assembled into arrays to provide the amount of light needed for the application, be they for headlamps, taillamps, turn signals, or sidemarkers. A benefit beyond the color of light is that they are energy-efficient. According to Audi, the DRLs on the new A4 require just 15 watts. Looking forward, they anticipate LEDs being eight times more efficient than halogen lamps by 2018. LEDs also illuminate more quickly, and have considerable longevity compared to other lighting technology.
So, with the technology established, what about designers? Says André Georgi, senior designer of Lighting Systems, “The remarkable cooperation between design and technology at Audi is surely unique in the automotive industry.” There is even an engineer—nicknamed “The Bridge”—who works in the Design Department. Georgi continues, “It’s a truly intensive process for us to develop new headlights; every idea and every vision from Technical Development and Design come together.”
While the Audi R8 is certainly the ne plus ultra of LED deployment, Audi designers are using LEDs on other vehicles to help provide distinctive looks. Georgi says, “The lighting configuration of yesteryear—the radiator grille along with the round lights—called to mind the face of a friendly bear. The LED daytime running lights for the A Series—the A4 and A5—look determined, elegant and dynamic. The lights on the Audi Q5 and Audi Q7 appear especially broad and powerful. And the LED daytime running lights on the R8 symbolize the horns of a bull charging full speed ahead, bursting with vigor and pride.”
And putting a point on this, Stefan Sielaff, Audi’s head of Design, maintains, “Every light design is different, yet there’s no mistaking that every single vehicle is an Audi. Our daytime running lights cemented the visible persona of Audi models on the road and hone our progressive, sporty design.”