Magna has shown off its Surface Element Lighting Technology on the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4. This lighting system is highly customizable and uses LEDs to create cool elements for the vehicle’s exterior. As a result, designers have more freedom when developing new vehicle concepts and allows for more flexibility in how to use light as part of a car’s design.
“Automotive designers are constantly looking for new ways to differentiate and lighting is one way to showcase creativity and brand image,” said, John O’Hara, President of Magna’s Mechatronics, Mirrors, Lighting division, and Magna Electronics. “With OLED-like uniformity at a fraction of the cost, Surface Element Lighting is a game-changer in terms of design and customization.”
Thanks to its thickness of 4 mm, each individual LED panel is compact and can be packaged into tight spaces. This also allows designers access to an endless number of configurations, giving them more styling freedom during the development stage of a new car. The surrounding frames of the main element can also be modified to make 3D patterns for things like taillights and headlights.
Having a lot of customizability options enables car designers to add cool lighting animations. That means the car’s lights can react differently when you lock/unlock it, turn it on, or use the turn signals. You can even add a hello/goodbye light signature when you approach or leave the vehicle. In the case of battery-electric cars like the Volkswagen ID.4, you can have a special light animation for the charge level indicator.
The Volkswagen ID.4 is just one of many vehicles on the market that have fun light sequences for different occasions and it won’t be the last. In the Volkswagen Group Audi has been pioneering the use of LED lighting and was one of the first brands to feature patterns on its vehicles. Even more attainable models like the A4 have some form of LED light animation. Kia will be using a similar lighting treatment on the EV6, which will feature sequential headlights and taillights. Hyundai, on the other hand, will use LED animations to indicate charge status on the Ioniq 5.
Another brand that’s taken LED lighting to another level is Mercedes-Benz. Models with adaptive LED headlights, for example, execute a cool light show upon startup. When driving at night, a cluster can individually light up road signs so that you see them clearly. In fact, the car will light up successive signs to help you navigate the road better during low visibility conditions. Other luxury brands have used lighting to add character to their vehicles. BMW and Lincoln use exterior LEDs to create a light carpet as the driver approaches the vehicle. Some brands use lighting as part of “easter eggs” to evoke a vehicle’s heritage.
As vehicle design advances and electrification becomes the norm, expect more models to get unique LED lighting treatment. Since the latter gives designers more ways to get creative. Don’t be surprised if you see lighting become an integral part of car design as EVs become commonplace. Internal combustion models are already turning into fun studies in car design, how much more can designers push the boundaries when they’re given more freedom by EVs?