The Evolution of Automotive Lighting Technology: From Kerosene to LED

It seems like each of us can roughly tell the story of how modern lighting evolved. Bonfires, torches, kerosene lamps, electricity. The first incandescent lamp. Fluorescent lamps and LEDs. Then people added more technology to all this. The methods we bring light to the darkness have come a long way from the first spark to smart lighting.

However, not everyone can recall the history of lighting in cars with the same agility. And by the way, the evolution here is quite interesting. It’s clear that the cars were not lit with fire, but electricity did not take its place right away. Let’s take a look at how lighting in cars has evolved and what we have now.

How it started

It all started in darkness. Literally. The very first cars, or rather, their prototypes, which were called “self-moving carriages,” didn’t have any external lighting at all. So daylight was a requirement for traveling.

To light their way up a little, the first cars used kerosene, oil, and acetylene lamps that were applied around the end of the 19th century. However, these systems were very labor-intensive. To turn on the headlights, you needed to open the supply valve, then put the caps of the headlights up, and only then light the lamps with a match. Fuel for these systems was produced on the move in a separate tank. Later, such lamps were made to shine only forward, not all the way around, but they were still inconvenient to use.

All hail electricity

Since the early 1920s, incandescent lamps have appeared. They were more powerful and convenient light sources compared to acetylene-powered systems.

The Evolution of Automotive Lighting Technology: From Kerosene to LED 1 - Home improvement - iD Lights

Over the next 80 years, everything evolved rapidly. The lamps themselves, their design, the material, and the shape of the honeycomb reflectors. Also, lamps with two filaments appeared, allowing the driver to switch from low to high beam and back.

The rise of halogen

Incandescent headlights failed quite often since tungsten “evaporated” from the filament quickly. In the 1970s, this type of lamp was replaced by halogen-based solutions. They function almost the same, but the gas bulb is filled with halides that prevent the evaporation of tungsten. As a result, the service life and power of the lamp doubled, and the heat output decreased significantly.

LED lights in cars: Pros and cons

The next stage in the car headlights evolution came in the 2000s with the use of LEDs. This innovation simplified the headlights’ design, increased reliability, and reduced energy consumption. However, not all drivers like them too much. Here are some things people consider good and some points they are worried about.


  • Energy efficiency
  • Brightness
  • Longevity
  • Quick illumination


  • Upfront cost
  • Complex installation
  • Compatibility issues
  • Regulatory compliance
The Evolution of Automotive Lighting Technology: From Kerosene to LED 2 - Home improvement - iD Lights

LED lamps are quite expensive to install and maintain. Therefore, lighting also affects the car’s price. It doesn’t matter if you want to buy it, rent it, or lease it, vehicles with LED headlights will have a higher price tag.

However, these headlights may be suitable if you want to rent a car while traveling. They are brighter and will allow you to better navigate on dark roads, especially in an unfamiliar country. For example, if you are going on vacation to the UAE and are going to take advantage of a car lease Dubai long term, you can take a closer look at cars with LED headlights.

To sum it all up

Well, this is the evolution that car headlights have undergone. Most vehicles, however, are still equipped with default halogen headlights, since not everyone is ready to put up with the disadvantages of LEDs. Also, there are people already talking about laser headlights. For now, it’s only an innovation, but perhaps soon all car manufacturers will shift to it completely. But there is no doubt that the future of car headlights lies in new light sources, unimaginable shapes, and amazing technologies.

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