The Dark Sky Alqueva reserve in Portugal is a unique place in Europe to observe nebulae and constellations, such as Orion. It is a realm of darkness where the engineers of the SEAT Lighting team feel right at home. In the darkest areas of the planet they monitor the behaviour of other types of constellations, those that make up the headlamps and rear lights that they develop for models such as the SEAT Leon. “Here we have once again verified that the lighting we have designed for the fourth generation adapts perfectly to the road thanks to the range and width of the headlight beams and the contrast and definition of the rear lights” explains Carlos Elvira, head of Lighting and Signalling Development at SEAT.
A constellation of 340 LED.
Full LED technology has opened up new possibilities for engineers, both in terms of design as well as safety and comfort. “It enables us to have much more light on a much smaller surface area and thus to work with it much more efficiently” says Magnolia Paredes, head of Electronic Lighting Development at SEAT. It was also a great challenge. “It’s the result of a great development effort because, as it is a light source made up of an electronic component, we had to to introduce drivers to control all the lighting elements” explains Carlos.
800 hours in the dark.
It took 800 hours in the dark to test the headlamps and rear lights of the new Leon.
The team of engineers worked for approximately 2,500 hours on the design of the fourth generation SEAT Leon light assemblies. And for another 800 hours they tested them in the dark, either in the optical tunnel, which recreates night time driving conditions, or on roads in the four corners of the world. “For us, testing in extreme climates is essential; in hot areas to test the operation of the electronics and in the cold to confirm the distribution of light on accumulations of ice” says Carlos as he places markers on the edge of one of the roads in the area, leaving one metre between each one. With this test they certify that a dipped beam has the desired range, in this case 70 metres.
Lighting the way.
In addition to its power and greater flexibility in where, how and when to direct the light beam, LED light stands-out for being much whiter than previous lighting technologies. With a colour temperature of 5,000 degrees Kelvin it is much closer to that of the solar spectrum. “This makes it possible to better identify the shape and colour of objects you encounter on the road at night, even in areas as dark as Alqueva, and this enables you to anticipate any circumstances that may arise” says Magnolia.
One of the keys to improving safety at the wheel is the quick reaction of this lighting technology. An LED diode responds 150 milliseconds faster than an incandescent bulb. This means that, for example, when driving at 120 km/h, the driver behind you can see your brake light five metres earlier. And inside the car, the arc that illuminates the top of the dashboard is also associated with an important safety function. “Light signals are combined with acoustic signals to warn, for example, that a door is not properly closed or that a vehicle is approaching from behind as you prepare to get out of the car” explains Magnolia.
For the two engineers, the wraparound arc of light in the interior is one of the highest expressions of the turning point that LED technology represents. “It was a great challenge for our programmers to obtain the maximum functional result” says Carlos. Not only is it customisable, adapting the colour to the driver’s mood, but it also fulfils an important safety function, alerting to an improperly closed door or another car approaching from behind as you prepare to exit. And new features will be added by the end of the year. “The light intensity will increase as you accelerate to make you more speed conscious and if you are travelling with children and activate the safety locks on the rear doors they will light up in red if they try to open them” says Carlos.