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Tesla Model S LED Headlamp Insight

Discussion in 'Model S' started by ucsbwsr, Jun 15, 2016.

  1. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

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    Information released by Tesla has been pretty cryptic regarding the new LED headlamps so I went out to collect my own data and wanted to share with the TMC community.

    I recall reading in some automotive journal that there would be a base LED lamp and an Adaptive LED, from what I have seen they all look to be Adaptive. It is actually quite hard to decipher what is going on with the optics as they are so recessed inside the housing but I must say, I am a HUGE fan of how the new Model S LED headlights look. The design is very well executed: sharp, clean, and aggressive.

    Currently I am trying to make sense of the data released by Tesla, in conjunction with what I was told by the sales associate, as well as what I saw when examining the LED lamps. The Tesla website states, "14 three-position LEDs." I believe that number applies to both headlamps. The sales associate told me that the upper row of LEDs were for the adaptive function, this makes sense as during the demonstration (which did not include turning the wheel) only the bottom row of LEDs lit for low and high beam function.

    I counted 9 reflective bowl per headlight so the only way it makes sense, unless I made a mistake, is each of the lower bowls contain a 3-position LED and the 3 upper bowls are considered 1 3-position LED even the bowls are separate. I was told Model X and S have similar adaptive function so it makes sense that the 3 top bowls are for throwing light out to the sides in the progressive +1 +2 +3 sequence like the Model X.

    Hopefully when these facelifted cars roll out we can get some additional pictures/testing/data to confirm. That or I will just get my hands on a LED lamp to take apart and tinker on.


    Below are some pictures and notes,
    Evan


    LED Lamps on the showroom demo car.
    [​IMG]

    Unfortunately the driver side DRL had some failed LEDs... whooops!
    [​IMG]

    White!
    [​IMG]

    Tagging the reflective bowls
    L = Low Beam
    H = High Beam
    A = Adaptive (I think)
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    Hard to tell is those are 3 LEDs illuminated in L3 and L4 or if it is the same LED reflected by 3 different angles of the bowl.
    [​IMG]

    Close up of the new diffused DRL
    [​IMG]

    Indicator has been redesigned and is now the thin acrylic stip on the outer side of the housing
    [​IMG]
     
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  2. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

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    Thanks to Bjorn for the demonstrations, he is proving to be very useful source for Tesla information.

    Based off his video I was able to confirm that the top row of LEDS were in fact for the adaptive feature but I had them labeled in the wrong order. I also overlooked a 3rd High Beam LED located in the lower outer corner of the lamp.

    If people are wondering what Bjorn was talking about withe the limited headlight output for certain European countries:

    The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) requires that HID and LED headlamps which produce over 2,000 lumens have headlight washers to remove debris (dirt, salt, etc.) that can diffuse the light output and create glare for oncoming traffic. Since the Model S is not equipped with these washers the output is limited to 2,000 lumens.

    In the United States Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) do not require this. For reference most oem HID headlamps in the US are powered by 35w ballasts and paired with new HID bulb (HID bulbs fade and lose output over time) should produce around 3,000-3,200 lumens. In countries under the UNECE HID headlamps without washers usually have 25w ballasts which dictates a ~2,000 lumen output.

    Here is an updated schematic and a link to his video.

    Hope this was helpful,
    Evan



    [​IMG]
     
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  3. chillaban

    chillaban Member

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    Thanks for labeling them and documenting this design!

    I am slightly disappointed (as a new facelift MS owner) that the car uses reflective bowls rather than projector lenses on the LEDs. My previous Audi A6 has all-LED lights of a similar design, but each LED had a small projector housing around it, similar to the Acura Jewel Eyes. The result is a much much smoother beam pattern with fewer jagged edges and weird artifacts around the borders of the beam....

    The Audi A3 is the only Audi in the entire lineup with LED headlights to use reflector bowls, and as a result its beam pattern has the same jagged characteristics as the MS...


    (Of course, I am nitpicking a $90k+ car. The headlights work fine in practice, it's just I wish they would've taken the next step)
     
  4. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

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    Being a headlight enthusiast I too was surprised that the Model S didn't make the jump to projectors. I presume the decision was heavily influenced by financial factors.

    The benefit of a projector over a reflective bowl is well documented in the single-lightsource headlights which have been the standard for many decades. With the matrix style LED lamps with multiple light sources the light resolution is much better even with 10-20 LEDs and dedicated optics it is obvious the precision can't come close to that of projected light. LEDs also the way LEDs emit light can be challenging to control relative to a traditional halogen or HID bulb.

    In terms of raw output and precision HID projectors are still supreme in this day and age, LEDs will surpass them but not right now. The main benefit of the matrix style LED lamps is the dynamic control they offer. Mercedes, Audi, and BMW showcase this technology well were they use a front-mounted camera to detect oncoming traffic and activate or deactivate individual LEDs to keep light from shining into oncoming traffic.

    Although the Model X, Model S, and presumably the Model 3 have "adaptive" LEDs their system is very primitive and only helps illuminate corners, many HID projector systems have offered this in the past decade. Where additional LEDs illuminate on the Model S the older adaptive HID systems would swivel and tilt the projector to accomplish the same goal but with better output and control.

    Evan
     
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  5. w2830

    w2830 Member

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    #5 w2830, Jun 26, 2016
    Last edited: Jun 26, 2016
    Awsome article! It's a shame that it seems this kind of attention to details is not appreciated by the majority of Tesla owners, or they just don't like negative things to be pointed out about their cars.

    I believe It's safe to say Tesla has certainly cheaped out on some areas of the car (not only taking about the headlight of course). And it seems it hasn't improved much in some departments even at this point which really sucks as the car is so awesome in other aspects.
     
  6. SuperOmega

    SuperOmega Member

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    I wonder what the headlamps will be like for the M3, if indeed if it's going to be an "affordable" car, LOL. Any wagers?
     
  7. SuperOmega

    SuperOmega Member

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    I wonder what the headlamps will be like for the M3, if indeed if it's going to be an "affordable" car, LOL. Any wagers?
     
  8. chillaban

    chillaban Member

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    Audi has this style of reflective bowl LED headlights in the Audi A3 with maybe 2 emitters at best (one for cornering on each side). I would imagine Tesla to use a similar design for the M3 if they wanted to cheap out. It still works acceptably well, it's just nothing at all to write home about.


    Don't get us wrong, these headlights are a huge improvement from the glare happy HID ballast headlights that originally came on the Model S! It's just compared to the luxury competition these are merely not class lagging.
     
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  9. ucsbwsr

    ucsbwsr Member

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    Although some may not care, there are those who do and that in of itself makes it worth it for me. There is a lot of merit to LED lamps but the tech just isn't there yet, it will, but it isn't right now.
    I have examined some high-resolution pics of the Model 3 (M3 gets confusing with the BMW M3, the "original" M3) and I would guess the overall function and performance will be extremely similar to the MS and MX LED lamps. The Model S looks to have ~8 reflective bowls and since the headlights wrap around the edges of the car like a boomerang, it makes me think there will be some adaptive feature like the MS/MX, if not the Model 3 should at least have the ability to throw a wide beam pattern given the design of the headlight and location of reflective bowls.
    I can't comment on the layout of the A3 headlight but it does one thing well: width. It looks like the LED A3 lamps have nearly 180 degree beam pattern, beyond that their performance looks pretty average. I only have this photo as a reference so my comments are based solely off this pic but the foreground (right in front of the car) is REALLY bright, maybe they have their fogs on too. But beyond the 50ft in front for the car there is no light throw so objects far away or EVERYTHING while at highway speeds are not adequately illuminated.
    11416402_1336703683023071_207133604675751645_o.jpg

    Regarding your "glare happy" HID comment. HIDs, even the below average setup on the pre-facelift MS will have less glare than the LED lamps, reflective bowls simply can't match the light control of a projector lens. From what I have seen the HID lamps look to have better intensity and beam pattern than the newer LED units. I think a lot of people get starry eyed with the LED technology and the higher (whiter) kelvin rating of the light, the white "looks" brighter. Much like the A3 above the beam pattern on the Tesla LED lamps has a lot of foreground which also makes the light seem bright as it reflects off the ground and actually creates some glare for the driver, foreground which is too bright makes the eyes constrict and impedes distance vision which is what really is important for most driving conditions.

    If you notice in the photos below the HID has a distinct cutoff where light out stops, the LED is a fuzzy triangular-shaped mound of light that tapers off center. In the "LED Low" you can see the MX light barely reaching what looks like a small white fence in the distance (to the left of the tree, the HID also reaches this but everything around that point is also illuminated: the tree, the large brown fence on the left, as well as the parking spots and plants on the right. The HID vehicle is parked to the right of the MX so there will be a clear advantage for the HID illuminating items on the right side of the photo but the distant ground on the left (in front of the brown fence) is illuminated better by the HID.

    If the LED lamps were aimed/raised up higher to get most of the beam pattern to illuminate distant objects better then the on-center beam pattern (peak of the triangle) would certainly be too high and cause glare for oncoming traffic. The MX LED has greater intensity in the foreground but that is exactly where you DO NOT want your intensity focused, you need some illumination to view objects when cornering and traveling at slow speed <25mph but any additional intensity is detrimental and causes eye strain. The MS HID also has a fair amount of foreground but the beam pattern is more evenly distributed amongst the foreground and distance.

    High beam performance seems to be extremely similar.

    Evan

    IMG_6811.PNG IMG_6812.PNG IMG_6814.PNG IMG_6815.PNG
     
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  10. 3s-a-charm

    3s-a-charm Active Member

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    Wow, the HID are pretty good!
     
  11. ecarfan

    ecarfan Well-Known Member

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    They certainly are. LED headlamps are not automatically better than HID headlamps. It depends on how they are designed, as @ucsbwsr points out above.

    I think the headlamps on my late 2013 S are very good and I've always felt they did a great job at illuminating the road.

    I think it likely the Model 3 will come standard with LED headlamps, and I hope they are at least as good as my S.
     

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