UK LED headlights go to Le Mans

27. března 2013 v 4:20 |  street light
LED headlights for endurance race cars has been launched by Derbyshire-based RaceTech Harnessing. They will make their debut at the 2013 Sebring 12hrs in Florida, and are being installed for the Le Mans 24 hour race.

The endurance race lights joint a range of LED headlights that RaceTech has developed over the past few years.
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UK sub-contractors provide the parts. DK Thermal of Hertfordshire, for example, provides custom metal-backed PCBs to heatsink, connect and locate the LEDs.

"LED intensity, colour temperature and luminous efficacy now supersedes the performance of conventional automotive lighting systems," said DK Thermal. "In addition LEDs are able to withstand shock and vibration much better than conventional light sources and have a very long life-span, which explains their use in a number of road cars."

"We prefer Osram LEDs. It seem to be the only company pushing [car headlight LED] development. Efficacy is improving every six months," said RaceTech director John Truman.

This said, one RaceTech headlight design has an LED from LEDengin - a company specialising in uncompromising heat extraction.

"The beam is always the tricky part. I have tried standard off-the-shelf optics," said Truman. "I use an outside specialist, a local freelance optical designer using Zemax software. The optical designer recommends glass lenses for best performance, which I get made by another local company."

Glass lenses get a clear polycarbonate protective cover, and one model has an 80mm injection moulded plastic lens - this is the one with the LEDengin LED.

So far the company has four different lenses for four different beam geometries, from wide, "almost like a dip beam", said Truman, to narrow angle for longer range.

Endurance racing cars have to have lights on all the time. RaceTech generally recommends a mix of dip-like and main beams, and race teams fit two, four or six lights, all of which go on at night.

"The eye sees blue first, so people see things clearer with LED lights," Smith asserted. "You can see colors clearer. The technology gives much better acuity of vision."

LED lights also cost much less to maintain, about $3,000 per year instead of the $25,300 per year the village spends now, Smith said, because they last an average of 70,000 hours per bulb instead of 20,000 hours per bulb.

It would cost around $522,000 to replace the village's 846 streetlights with LED fixtures, Smith said. A 25 percent matching grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, minus Electrical Solutions Network's 20 percent share for administering the grant application and the project, could cut the project's cost to about $413,700.

"Though we can't guarantee you'd get the grant, we've never been turned down because they can't spend their money fast enough," said Smith. "We would never order any lights until you have the check in hand."

North Aurora Public Works Director Mike Glock proposed installing eight LED streetlights on several test streets throughout the village as a pilot program. Then residents would be asked their thoughts before committing to replacing all the streetlights.

The pilot program would cost $4,000, half of which the village could get back by returning the LED lights if they cancel the replacement plan.

If acting Village Administrator David Summer signs off on the pilot program, staff could implement it in April without further board action because it would cost less than $5,000, noted Trustee Chris Faber.

Trustee Mark Guethle supported the plan. "I've had those LED lights in my house for three or four years," he said. "It took an initial adjustment because of the color difference, but I've had one LED bulb in a fixture for four years and it's still working. They're cooler, cheaper and need less maintenance than regular bulbs."

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