IEC Publishes Global Standards for LED Headlights

05/12/2016   /   Categories :  News

LED headlights are now commonplace in new cars, but the technology has grown without clear rules regarding testing procedures and performance characteristics. Although artificial lighting plays an important role in homes and businesses, lamp failure is generally not a critical issue; the same cannot be said of headlights, where inadequate optical design or sudden failure can cause accidents.

LED fixtures offer a potent lighting output and can be designed to withstand harsh environmental conditions, so it was only a matter of time before they were deployed in automotive applications. There are, however, two very important requirements that every headlight must meet:

  • Providing road visibility without exposing other drivers to glare.
  • Reliability: There are cases where headlight failure can have severe consequences, for example when driving at night under the rain.

Custom-built LED headlights often fail to meet these requirements. For this reason, the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) has developed global standards for LED headlights.

Operating Conditions for LED Headlights

LED headlights are exposed to harsher conditions that the average fixture in commercial applications. When designing an LED headlight, the following aspects must be considered:

  • Extreme Temperatures: Due to their potent lighting output, headlights generate a lot of heat, and LED models are no exception – they generate less heat than their halogen counterparts, but it is still significant. Their design must also account for the heating effect of the engine, which is located relatively close. Without efficient heat dissipation, LED headlights can be expected to fail shortly.
  • Vibration: Their location close to the engine also means LED headlights are subject to constant vibration, another factor that can shorten service life and must be considered during product design.
  • Dust and Moisture: LED headlights must be suitable for dusty roads and heavy rainfall, both of which are possible conditions that can be found on the road.

Custom LED headlights are built without considering these factors, and they represent a risk for all drivers, not just their owner. This brings us to another critical factor that must never be omitted when designing LED headlights – optical design.

LED Headlights: Glare and Optical Design Considerations

LEDs are highly directional light sources, emitting a much narrower beam than conventional lighting, although not as concentrated as that of lasers. This allows a high degree of control regarding the direction in which lighting is projected, which can be either positive or negative:

  • With proper optical design, LED headlights can offer excellent visibility of the road and its sides, but without posing a risk for other drivers – all lighting is directed to where it is needed and not frontally at a high angle.
  • Custom LED headlights, on the other hand, often emit a potent beam directly to the front. The resulting glare impairs visibility for drivers coming in the opposite direction, or even drivers traveling in the same direction if light is reflected on their rear-view mirror.

Why Do LED Headlights Need Standardization?

Standardization by part of the IEC was necessary, considering the various risk factors involved in LED headlights. If designed properly, they can offer a safer driving experience and enhanced energy efficiency; however, the opposite also applies – a poorly designed LED headlight is prone to failure and endangers all drivers.

Fortunately, it is now possible to get in touch with industry talent from all around the world and from all specialization fields, thanks to online freelancing marketplaces such as LightPro.


  • Reply

    William Durham / 06 Jun

    Do you happen to know what the new IEC standard number is for LED headlights?

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