The popularity of high intensity discharge lamps in Europe will grow sharply over the next five years, according to Valeo. About 20 percent of European cars are now fitted with HID lamps. The French supplier predicts that will increase to 60-80 percent by 2005.
Fitment rates of HID lamps grew slowly on top-level brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz during the second half of the 1990s.
But Valeo Lighting Systems Marketing Director Philippe Hidden says the most performance cars are now equipped with HID lamps - even small sporting models such as the VW Polo GTI. Hidden says most lower- and upper-medium cars in Europe will be fitted with HID lamps within three years.
HID lamps generate light from an electric arc created between electrodes in a bulb filled with xenon gas. There is no filament, as in incandescent and halogen lamps.
Benefits include high light output, better light distribution and low energy consumption. To the driver the light appears white on the road ahead. But to oncoming drivers, it has a blue tint.
Hidden says new HID lamps are being developed with electronic light projection systems and more sophisticated bulbs. These bulbs can cost three times as much as traditional bulbs.
But Hidden believes the advantages offered by the new HID lamps outweigh the extra cost.
'We will be able to offer new opportunities in terms of 1/8intelligent lighting' that adapts to driving conditions - during motorway trips, for example,' he says.
Next year Valeo will introduce HID lamps that shine further into the distance when a car is traveling at high speed. At speeds of 130kph and above, the light level is automatically raised by about two degrees to give a 20 percent increase in lighting distance.
Other lighting systems Valeo has under development include:
Adverse weather lighting, likely to be introduced when current European car lighting legislation is relaxed in 2003. Cars will be fitted with additional lights on the side to improve visibility in rain or fog.
Light sensors that measure the intensity of street lighting in towns and cities. Headlamps would dim automatically when ambient lighting is considered sufficient.
Headlamps could also be directed to follow the road ahead - angling into a curve, for example.