Headlamps refer to lighting devices that are installed in both sides of the automobile head and are used for night driving. Since the lighting effect of automobile headlamps has a direct influence on operations and safety of night driving, traffic administrative departments in different countries generally specify lighting standards of headlamps in legal format in order to ensure safety of night driving.
The light of automobile headlamps usually presents white or warm yellow. Initially, incandescent lamps and halogen lamps were used as lighting sources. Since 1990s, incandescent lamps have gradually been wiped out. Instead, high-intensity discharge lamps represented as xenon lamps emerged and became mainstream products along with halogen lamps. Technological progress has contributed to emergence of LED headlamps and laser headlamps. Currently, automobile headlamps are developing towards high direction, high brightness, low energy consumption and intelligence.
CRI claims that automobile LED headlamps are priced much higher than halogen lamps and even HID lamps because of high costs. In Chinese market, middle and low-end vehicle models are most popular, retail prices of which are often below CNY 150,000 (USD 23,000). From a short-term perspective, LED headlamps cannot dominate the automobile market in China. In 2017, the production volume of halogen automobile lamps exceeded 40 million in China, which was nearly 3 times as large as that of HID lamps and LED lamps, being 14 million and 10 million respectively.
Difficulties in prevalence of automobile LED headlamps are mainly attributable to product development and high production costs. Given that automobile headlamps have high requirements on heat dissipation, reliability and luminosity, international LED manufacturers, such as Nichia, Osram and Philips, are more widely recognized by automobile manufacturers. Chinese domestic manufacturers are unlikely to compete with them. Meanwhile, domestic LED lamp enterprises have no choice but to separately develop LED headlamps as a result of lacking collaboration with whole-vehicle manufacturers. Scarce experience in tests of whole-vehicle manufacturers leads to high barriers for these domestic enterprises to exploit the market.
According to CRI, although high costs and some other factors prohibit LED headlamps from prevailing in Chinese market for the time being, rising income of Chinese residents in addition to progress of LED technologies and reduction of costs are expected to facilitate development of LED headlamps in China.
In the long run, laser diodes possess stronger potential than LED in the automobile lighting market and they may well surpass LED in the near future. Despite power being reduced by half in comparison with LED, a laser diode headlamp can still generate 1,000 times the luminous intensity of the LED. Also, its size is only one hundredth of the LED. In addition, a laser diode is relatively thin, thereby requiring small space for installation. Reduced glare is conducive to lighting effect in foggy days.
It is estimated that laser diode headlamps will be applied to new-type limousines in China around 2020 while LED headlamps will be more often used in ordinary automobiles. As time goes by, halogen lamps and HID lamps will each exhibit a shrinking market.
CRI analyzes that China has been the largest automobile manufacturer and the largest distributor of new automobiles for 9 years from 2009 to 2017. The production volume of automobiles exceeded 29 million in China in 2017. By the end of 2017, the automobile reserve volume exceeded 200 million in China. However, the automobile reserve volume per capita was less than 200 per one thousand people, lagging behind developed countries. In this case, China’s automobile market is expected to continuously grow in the following decades. For relevant enterprises in the automobile headlamp industry chain, there are abundant opportunities in the Chinese market.