Osram says OLEDs will find use in production autos by 2016

Sept. 4, 2013
Surface-emitting OLED light source will prove an ideal match for tail and brake lights, according to Osram, with production obstacles largely overcome.

With the Frankfurt International Motor Show on tap beginning September 12 in Frankfurt, Germany, Osram is planning to highlight the OLED technology that it has been pursuing specifically for automotive applications. The company now believes that OLEDs will be used in production vehicles by 2016 in rear-facing applications such as brake and tail lighting.

Osram publicly demonstrated the automotive OLED technology in the fall of 2012 at the Electronica trade event. Clearly the company has progressed with the technology significantly in the last ten months. For a 2016 vehicle to use the technology, the light source must essentially be ready now given the long design cycles of the auto industry.

"We have essentially achieved road suitability for our OLEDs this year and will be offering initial special equipment based on OLEDs next year," said Ulrich Eisele, who is responsible for the OLED sector at Osram. "In 2016 at the latest, we expect to see OLEDs used in series production of new vehicles."

Osram believes that the inherently-diffuse, surface-emission characteristics of OLEDs make the technology especially suitable for the rear-facing lights. A main obstacle to such usage has been temperature stability of the light source — especially at extreme temperatures. But Osram said it has now achieved stability at 85°C over several hundred hours of operation.

Eisele added, "After a further year of research, the remaining obstacles regarding serial production are small." The company will also demonstrate the technology at the International Symposium on Automotive Lighting that will be held September 23–25, 2013 in Darmstadt, Germany.

Osram has not discussed the other roadblock to OLED usage — namely costs. Even LED lighting has been relegated mainly to premium auto models and LED technology is more mature and less costly than OLED technology. As the LED technology goes more mainstream in autos, OLEDs will likely be limited to the elite models initially.

Our September issue includes a feature article on LED usage in autos and does mention OLED usage as well. The OLED technology is already being used inside the cabin in some high-end autos for displays.

While primary advantages of LEDs in cars have been a controllable beam, lower energy usage, and lighter weight, OLEDs could bring other advantages. For example, Osram says that transparent OLEDs will offer new design concepts in automotive lighting.