Understanding BMW Headlight Systems: Differences Between Bi-Xenon, LED, and Laser Lights (2023)

Headlight systems

What is the difference between Xenon/HID systems and conventional halogen systems?

Xenon/HID systems use different principles in the creation of light than halogen. HID bulbs contain a small capsule with a mixture of xenon gas and halide salts that aid in the creation of a powerful light source that is generally 3 times brighter than halogen bulbs. Halogen bulbs use a filament that creates light from basic ohmic resistance across a filament. While halogen bulbs runs directly from the cars 12V system, HID bulbs require a complex ballast that can supply accurate high voltage.

What is the beam difference between ECE, DOT, JDM, and harmonized headlights?

- Headlights following US standards are labled DOT. Note the increased illumination of overhead signs, which also results in higher glare levels for oncoming drivers. Maximum allowed illumination is 28,000 candela.
- Headlights following European standards (ECE) are lable E followed by a number. Note the much lower glare levels above citoff and sharp horisontal cutoffs. Maximum allowed illumination is 38,000 candela.
- Harmonized headlights are labled (example:) E4 DOT. They can legally be used on both continents, but a true ECE headlamp will always have higher output.
- Headlights following Japanese marked (JDM) has a vertically mirrored ECE pattern, and is for driving on the left side of the road only.

How does a OEM Bi-Xenon system work?

(Video) Bi-Halogen, Bi-LED, Bi-Xenon HOW THEY WORK | Headlight Revolution

Very simple, Bi-Xenon means that both high and low beam is created by the same HID bulb. A Bi-Xenon system can be based on reflector and projector design. The latter one is the simplest. Hella has a Bi-Xenon system that has amoveableshieldinside a projector unit. This is accomplished by using a spring loaded solenoid (just like in power door locks) or servo motor with 2 positions. Bi-Xenon came on many cars in 2002.

The advantage compared to a traditional projector HID low beam/Halogen high beam is that you get HID low AND high beam. Bi-Xenon systems have additional flash-to-pass separate halogen lamps. Bi-Xenons System are a step up from regular low beam Xenons, since there will be better high beams. The high beams in a HID low beam HID/ halogen high beam combination has a tendancy to be degraded to a beam cutoff softener. It is easy to get spoiled by the powerful low beam HID which makes high beams with 65W halogen almost dim in comparison. They should have been 140W high beam. Bi-Xenons gives a better long distance view when high beam is on.

Bi-Xenons are not perfect either. Ideally, they should have made foreground lighting weaker when switching solenoids over to high beams. But that feature in non avail so far.

Use only OEMBi-Xenon Systems, don't use any aftermarket Bi-Xenon HID Kits.

What differs left and right side headlamps?
Optically, there will be no difference. Left and right beam pattern are the same. Esthetically, left and right headlamp are of course mirrored, to make the front look pretty. Internal components (ballasts, projector units) is most often mirrored as well. Contents of components are the same, but mounting tabs, connector placement and so forth, can be mirrored.

BMW LED Headlights

(Video) Modern Headlights 101 - Xenon, Matrix, and Laser Lights

LED in headlamps

In rear lamps, applications with red and yellow LEDs already are state of the art in lighting technology. In headlamps, especially white LEDs are necessary that for main functions must provide abetter light performance.White LEDshave already been used for signal functions like position or daytime running light in some serial projects. With the development of the first Full-LED headlamp for Audi R8, Automotive Lighting set up a world premiere. For the first time, all light functions of a serial headlamp are being realized in LED technology, these are low and high beam, daytime running light, turn indicator and position light.
LED technology offers new opportunities for the future concerning styling, technology and energy consumption.

Advantages of LEDs

LEDs especially stand out for the following characteristics:
- the light temperature of the LEDs nearly achieve daylight quality
- an extremely high lifetime lasting more than a whole vehicle life
-a significantly lower energy consumption
- more effective opportunities for the use of installation space in headlamps
- unique freedom and variety in styling for the development of brand characteristic styling elements within headlamps

Function of LEDs

LEDs are based on semiconductor technology. The light is emitted directly out of the semiconductor substrate when a forward voltage is applied. The color depends on the band-gap energy of valence and conduction band for the materials forming the semiconductor. The amber color is directly generated by the LED by Aluminium Indium Gallium Phosphide (AlInGaP) semiconductor material. Through the luminescence conversion process, white light is generated. A blue diode in combination with an appliedconverter material, the color blue and yellow, the combination of which is perceived as white light.

(Video) BMW Laser Light Headlights

Technical implementation in headlamps

To achieve the targeted light patterns with LED applications in headlamps, two conventional opportunities are available that are already implemented in filament and also in gas discharge lamps. Either the light of the LED is redirected through a reflector in order to achieve the light pattern on the road. Or, alternatively compact systems can be applied that project the light in the street using a lens.
Due to their small sizes, LEDs offer the opportunity to combine both light systems for the first time.

Temperature management

In contrast to Halogen or Xenon systems, LEDs emit cold light meaning that no infrared radiation is being produced. Due to the high efficiency, 20% of the input energy are transformed into visible light (for comparison a filament bulb only transforms 5%) - the rest of the energy generates heat within the semiconductor chip. Luminous flux, colour and forward voltage are dependant on the temperature. As soon as the allowed temperature is exceeded, the lifetime of the LED will be badly affected or in worst case will be destroyed.
To protect the hottest part, the chip, cooling elements with a controlled air transportation system have been developed. The systematic direction of the warm air to the bezel of the headlamp is so simultaneously being used for de-icing and decondensation.

Reduction of energy consumption

The application of LED technology significantly contributes to the avoidance of CO2 emission and the reduction of fuel consumption.
This aspect especially gains importance with the implementation of daytime running light (DRL). DRL with LED needs 14W of energy, whereas the use of conventional vehicle lighting at day (low beam, rear lights, position lights) consumes 300W.


Outlook and trend

LED technology within the external vehicle lighting is still in its infancy. Future fields of activity are to be found especially in the implementation of adaptive light systems and in the furtheroptimization of energy consumption.

BMW Laser Headlights

In September 2009 BMW sent out a press release telling everyoneit was working on laser headlights for its cars. Nobody paid too much attention.

But we should have, because now that BMW has pioneered the technology in the automotive sphere (lasers have resided in many other aspects of our daily lives for years) the potential applications are exciting. And not only becauselasers save fuel, create twice the visibility range of the next best thing and are (surprisingly) less blinding than burn-your-eyes-out LED and xenon headlights.

Being remarkably closer in ‘colour temperature’ to natural sunlight, laser headlights are far easier on the eye than the LED/Xenon combo with which that Audi blinded you with last night.

(Video) Adaptive Headlights | BMW Genius How-To

The best reason, however, why lasers are exciting is because ultimately its the headlights that make a car look incredible or incredibly dull, and lasers give car designers huge scope to play around, taking up far less space than conventional headlights. BMW, in fact, has been remarkably conservative with the design of the i8 headlights, preferring an understated, clinical look to something more flamboyant or aggressive.

Understanding BMW Headlight Systems: Differences Between Bi-Xenon, LED, and Laser Lights (1)

This image shows the different stages of the BMW i8’s new headlights, going, from left to right, from LED low beams shining 100m ahead, to LED high beams, which shine 300m ahead, and onto the LED high beams with laser light, which are capable of illuminating the road 600m ahead of the car.


What is the difference between BMW laser lights and LED lights? ›

BMW says that laser headlights can be up to 1,000 times brighter than an LED while consuming significantly less power. They can also light up to 6 times more road than traditional LED low beams, providing significantly increased visibility.

What is the difference between BMW Xenon and bi-Xenon? ›

Xenon and Bi-Xenon headlights do not have a fundamental difference, since they both use the same Xenon bulbs. They differ only in the number of bulbs that are in each set of headlights. Xenon headlights use two pairs of bulbs just like halogen headlights, while Bi-Xenon headlights use only a single pair of bulbs.

What is BMW Laserlight headlights? ›

These blue beams then go through a yellow phosphorus lens, causing a reaction that results in a terrific bright beam of light! This ends up making a light that is up to 10-times brighter than your traditional LED headlights and can be up to 30-times more efficient, in some cases.

What is the function of the laser lights on a BMW? ›

The BMW Laserlight system – which is available in some European BMW i8 models – improves high-beam output by two, meaning you can see twice as far down the road. And the technology creates light that's 10 times brighter and more intense than traditional Xenon or LED headlamps.

Which is better LED or laser headlights? ›

A laser headlight can produce light up to 1,000 times stronger than the light produced by LED technology, while only using 2/3 of its power. This is why laser headlights can light up a distance twice as long as the one LED headlights can light up.

Which is better LED or laser? ›

Lasers are more powerful and operate at faster speeds than LEDs, and they can also transmit light farther with fewer errors. Laser are also much more expensive than LEDs.

Which is better bi-xenon or LED? ›

While not as bright as xenons, LEDs offer decent illumination, use less energy, and last longer. But if the cost is dramatically more, we'd probably skip it. That's because xenon headlights are also excellent. However, as LEDs become cheaper to make, expect to see them in a broader range of vehicles.

Are LED or bi-xenon headlights better? ›

LED bulbs are more energy-efficient than xenon bulbs and last up to 25 times longer. LED bulbs also produce a much brighter, whiter light than xenon bulbs, and they are much safer as they produce very little heat. LED bulbs are also more cost-effective in the long run, as they require less electricity to run.

Are BMW LED headlights better than xenon? ›

In LEDs, the electrical current passes through a semiconductor (diode) to produce light that is much brighter and has a wider beam pattern than other headlights. They are about 90% more efficient and generate less heat. They also tend to last longer than xenon or halogen lights but become dimmer with age.

Are BMW laser lights good? ›

The use of laser technology in the headlight is super advantageous in many ways. To be specific, laser lights are about 1,000 times more intense than LED and consume nearly half the current. Well, this leads to less lead on the car battery. This translates to better life and longevity.

Why did BMW remove laser lights? ›

BMW Adaptive LED replacing Laser due to equal performance ? - XBimmers | BMW X3 Forum. I was watching a video overview of the new X5/6 in the thread linked, and it suggests that BMW has now done away with the laser option completely due to the performance of Adaptive LED now being equal.

Are BMW laser lights any good? ›

Laser lights are only active above a certain speed, for some reason I think I remember 60 mph, and with high beams. They're a fancy version of the adaptive headlights, which provide great illumination and arguably better visibility (half a mile apparently) while using 30% less energy than LEDs.

What are the disadvantages of laser headlights? ›

  • Function. ...
  • Pros/cons. ...
  • * Advantages: optimal brightness, far range of coverage, energy efficient, small packaging.
  • * Disadvantages: extremely expensive, not available as dual beam, generates heat.

What type of headlights do BMW use? ›

BMW Halogen Lights

It basically relies on an incandescent bulb filled with halogen gas that increases the light intensity and output of the projector. However, even on the most basic BMWs, the halogen technology is getting slowly replaced by mainstream LED.

What is the range of BMW laser headlights? ›

The benefits of BMW Laserlights at a glance:

– High beam range of up to 600 metres is double that of conventional headlights.

What is the disadvantage of LED light over laser light? ›

Non-coherent light source. Hardly available. Consuming more power. Costlier than LASER.

Which headlights are best for night driving? ›

LED and HID bulbs give the best coverage in comparison to standard bulbs, and they also extend the distance of vision at night, especially in dimly lit areas or off-road where there is no lighting available.

Why LED is preferred instead of laser? ›

LED light comes from spontaneous emission, whereas laser diode light arises from stimulated emission. Thus, LEDs generally have lower output powers and omnidirectional emission. LEDs are efficient and small like their laser counterparts but typically operate at lower drive currents and are less expensive.

What are the disadvantages of lasers? ›

Following are the drawbacks or disadvantages of Laser: ➨It is expensive and hence more expenditure to the patients requiring laser based treatments. ➨It is costly to maintain and hence more cost to doctors and hospital management. ➨Increases complexity and duration of the treatment based on laser devices or equipments.

What are two advantages of LED over laser? ›

Offering the same wavelengths necessary for fiber transmissions, LEDs have significant advantages over the laser. These include lighter weight, smaller footprint, ease of installation, small light-emitting areas compatible with fiber, high luminance, low heat, longer life, and, the most important, lower cost.

What are the advantages of laser over LED? ›

Higher Output Power

Lasers are specified by their optical output power; a 1 watt laser produces 1 watt of light output. In contrast, LEDs are specified by their electrical power consumption. Thus, a 1 watt LED consumes 1 watt of electrical power.

What are BMW xenon headlights? ›

BMW HID. HID stands for High-Intensity Discharge and refers to the Xenon lights used by BMW. They create light by forming an electric arc between two electrodes in a xenon-filled glass. This produces a lot brighter light than Halogens while also being incredibly efficient and long-lasting.

Are bi xenon headlights worth it? ›

If you spend most of your time with your dipped beam headlights on, then xenon headlights should work fine. But if you're set on using xenon bulbs all the time, or if you find yourself turning on your main beams often, then bi-xenon headlights are a great choice.

Can I replace bi xenon bulbs with LED? ›

You can replace xenon headlight bulbs with led headlight bulbs and this is why you should... There has been a lot of talk lately about replacing xenon headlight bulbs with LED headlight bulbs.

What are the disadvantages of xenon headlights? ›

One disadvantage of Xenon headlights is their cost. They are generally more expensive than traditional halogen bulbs to produce and install, which can result in higher repair costs. Another drawback is their tendency to blind oncoming traffic if they are not properly aimed or installed correctly.

What is the number 1 LED headlight? ›

Our top recommendation for LED headlights is the Fahren LED headlight bulbs. They produce 14,000.0 lumens (Lm), making them more than 300 percent brighter than most halogen bulbs.

What LED color is best for headlight? ›

6000k is the preferred OE color for a LED forward light source. Even if it's close enough as a few hundred Kelvin would be undetectable to the naked eye (5700-6200). I recall seeing a lighting engineer for Audi say that 5700k is the best color for the human eye.

Why are BMW headlights so expensive? ›

Due to having high-intensity xenon headlights, BMW headlights can be pricey to replace. Xenon or HID headlights came out over 15 years ago and are mostly used on luxury cars. An assembly without a bulb runs about $2,000 if you're replacing the bulbs too and add another $500 for the pair.

How long do BMW xenon headlights last? ›

How Long do Xenon Headlights Last? Xenon headlights have an average lifespan of around 2,000 – 3,000 hours, which can work out up to ten years under normal usage.

How long do BMW xenon lights last? ›

Yes, as you may expect over time the brightness and intensity of light produced from your xenon headlights will start to fade. However, rest assured that a quality xenon headlight should still last for around 2,000 – 3,000 hours.

Are BMW laser lights legal in US? ›

U.S. automobile regulations prohibit the use of advanced laser headlights currently being used or tested by Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Volvo and Toyota. Only high and low beams are allowed, unlike new adaptive laser headlights which detect oncoming cars and dim part of the light output to avoid dazzling drivers.

Which color laser light is best? ›

Did you know that a green laser light is ten to 50 times brighter than a red light laser? Green lasers are much more efficient and visible in areas of broad daylight and direct sunlight. They are also able to travel longer distances, which is why they are so popular on construction sites.

What are BMW lights called? ›

Modern BMW-designed halo rings are part of the BMW bi-xenon headlights. A signature element that served to distinguish BMW vehicles on the road, halo headlights were soon borrowed by other automakers.

How much is BMW laser light? ›

The laser headlights on getbmwparts.com are $4,700 per side.

Why are BMW lights yellow? ›

BMW warning lights on the dashboard follow a traffic light colour system: Green: the system is working correctly or is currently in use. Yellow: something is not working correctly - take extra care and check it out as soon as possible.

What is the difference between laser and LED laser? ›

The main difference between lasers and LEDs is that a laser has one single wavelength and a LED emits a Gaussian-like distribution of wavelengths as displayed in figure 1. To calculate the concentrations of haemoglobin, wavelength specific absorption of oxy- and deoxy haemoglobin are used.

What are the safety issues with laser lights? ›

Lasers can cause damage in biological tissues, both to the eye and to the skin, due to several mechanisms. Thermal damage, or burn, occurs when tissues are heated to the point where denaturation of proteins occurs. Another mechanism is photochemical damage, where light triggers chemical reactions in tissue.

How long do laser beams last? ›

Instead of a bulb, a laser pointer equips a laser diode, which converts electrical energy into a coherent and narrow laser beam of visible light. A laser diode is a component of a laser module, which is rated between 10,000 to 50,000 hours. A laser pointer is available in various colors, usually red and green.

What is special about laser light? ›

Because laser light stays focused and does not spread out much (like a flashlight would), laser beams can travel very long distances. They can also concentrate a lot of energy on a very small area. Lasers have many uses. They are used in precision tools and can cut through diamonds or thick metal.

What is the danger of LED headlights? ›

LED Headlights Issues

One of the most significant drawbacks of LED headlights is their glare. The glare may be so intense that it might affect other drivers on the road. Long-term retinal damage might be caused by this method, according to experts. LED headlights, are also more costly to operate.

Can I upgrade my BMW headlights? ›

If you have an older BMW, upgrading the headlight bulbs makes a great cost effective upgrade. With not much difficulty and a little care, you can do it yourself in less than an hour.

Does BMW have laser lights? ›

Your eyes are safe! That being said, the blue lasers inside the BMW Laserlight lenses are powerful enough to actually burn objects.

How much does BMW charge for headlights? ›

The average cost for a BMW 328i Headlight Bulb Replacement is between $193 and $330. Labor costs are estimated between $57 and $72 while parts are priced between $136 and $258.

What is the difference between BMW adaptive headlights and normal? ›

Increased Visibility - Adaptive LED headlights emit more light, giving you increased visibility in low-light situations. They also pivot toward the direction you're driving, making it easier to see around curves and corners. Safety - Typically, adaptive LED headlights contain a sensor that detects oncoming traffic.

Is BMW high beam assist worth it? ›

Clever but not worth it IMO. You need full adaptive to get the benefits. HBA on its own is not enough. Full adaptive is personally one of the must haves if you do any dark evening / night driving.

What is the difference between LED and laser LED? ›

LED light comes from spontaneous emission, whereas laser diode light arises from stimulated emission. Thus, LEDs generally have lower output powers and omnidirectional emission. LEDs are efficient and small like their laser counterparts but typically operate at lower drive currents and are less expensive.

What is the difference between laser and LED light source? ›

When comparing an LED to a laser, the LED is a standard light source and falls short for light-emitting diodes. A laser does provide more power and function at higher speed levels than an LED. A laser also has better accuracy while channeling light over a wider distance.

What are the advantages of laser lighting over LED lighting? ›

Higher Output Power

Lasers are specified by their optical output power; a 1 watt laser produces 1 watt of light output. In contrast, LEDs are specified by their electrical power consumption. Thus, a 1 watt LED consumes 1 watt of electrical power.

Why LED are more reliable than laser? ›

2. Why we said " LEDs are generally more reliable than lasers"? LED are generally more reliable than lasers because but both sources will degrade over time , this degradation can be caused by heat generated by the source and uneven current densities . LED are easier to use than lasers.

What headlights do BMW use? ›

BMW HID. HID stands for High-Intensity Discharge and refers to the Xenon lights used by BMW. They create light by forming an electric arc between two electrodes in a xenon-filled glass.

Which is better low level laser or LED? ›

Laser Vs LED Effectiveness

A laser's wavelength can be specifically optimized to 650 nanometers, which is widely considered the ideal wavelength for full light exposure. LEDs are known to emit beams that are wider and less consistent, making it more difficult to penetrate farther into the scalp.


1. Halogen vs xenon vs LED, an objective comparison (complete english version)
(Kevins Cars)
2. LHD or RHD which do you need? TRS will explain the difference with 370Z headlights
3. BMW Laser Headlamp Demonstration
(Paul Tan's Automotive News)
4. TRS TECH TIPS: What Are Bi-Xenon and Bi-LED Projectors & How Do They work?
5. BMW UK | BMW Adaptive LED Headlights.
6. Xenon vs. Halogen headlight comparison (also Static vs. Adaptive headlights)
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