Osram adds an LED bulb replacement for headlights, but there’s a price

Oct. 7, 2020
Five times the distance and longevity, three times brighter, and more than six times as expensive.

Remember the days a decade or so ago, when LED bulbs cost a king’s ransom compared to conventional units? Well, if you want a nostalgic experience, try replacing the halogen or xenon headlight bulb on your car in Germany, where Osram has just introduced a €130 ($150) LED option.

Okay, that’s somewhat misleading. The price covers two of the bulbs, called the Night Breaker LED. So for a mere €65 ($75), you can have all the benefits of LED. Or, you can pay around €8‒€10 for a single conventional Osram H7 halogen — H7 is the bulb type that fits many car headlights.

Mea culpa: That’s all a bit of a wiseguy perspective.

The good news here is that after rigorous testing, the German Federal Motor Transport Authority has deemed Osram’s LED variety a legal H7 replacement. This marks the first time any vendor’s LED H7 has garnered such approval in Germany, according to Osram.

That means that users can now buy and legally use an LED H7 that according to Osram is three times brighter, projects light five times as far, consumes less energy, and lasts about 2500 hours versus 500 hours sized up next to halogen.

Related article: Osram, Continental dissolving smart headlight joint venture

Osram said it is providing the Night Breaker for the BMW 2 Series, Audi A3 and A4, and Ford Mondeo. It suggested that ongoing testing should lead to approval for other brands as well. At the moment, the bulb is approved for low beam use, with high beam under review.

“Road approval is an important step that we have been working towards for years,” said Hans-Joachim Schwabe, CEO of Osram Automotive.

The testing was conducted by German international testing and certification firm TÜV SÜD.

“The LED lamp had to be designed to imitate or outperform a halogen lamp in a halogen headlamp,” an Osram spokesperson told LEDs Magazine. “This is technically challenging, as LED is a different technology with different photometric characteristics than halogen.”

Related article: Audi spices up tail lights with variable OLEDs

Having cleared the test hurdles, Osram is now offering a lamp that it says greatly outperforms earlier offerings.

“This added value is reflected in a higher price,” the spokesperson told LEDs.

Higher indeed — Night Breaker at an official price of €129.99 for two is somewhere around six to eight times the price of an Osram halogen H7, or around twelve times if you have to buy two Night Breakers where one would suffice.

It evokes the early days of household LED bulbs, when something that had been as cheap as a buck or two could cost $25‒$50.

With apologies to Prince, you can now relive that excitement in Germany by heading to your auto parts store and partying like it’s two thousand and nine.

MARK HALPER is a contributing editor for LEDs Magazine, and an energy, technology, and business journalist ([email protected]).

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About the Author

Mark Halper | Contributing Editor, LEDs Magazine, and Business/Energy/Technology Journalist

Mark Halper is a freelance business, technology, and science journalist who covers everything from media moguls to subatomic particles. Halper has written from locations around the world for TIME Magazine, Fortune, Forbes, the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Guardian, CBS, Wired, and many others. A US citizen living in Britain, he cut his journalism teeth cutting and pasting copy for an English-language daily newspaper in Mexico City. Halper has a BA in history from Cornell University.