BMW is outfitting its luxury i8 plug-in hybrid coupe with lasers, though unfortunately that won’t mean blasting slower traffic out of the lane ahead. The car will be the first production model in the world to get laser light headlamps, which use laser diodes to produce more daylight-like illumination, boost range, and – perhaps most importantly on a car powered by batteries – cut power consumption.
The system works by replacing the standard LEDs with laser diodes, which are ten times smaller. That allows the i8 to have smaller reflector surfaces inside, in addition to reducing bulk and weight: in fact, the i8’s reflectors on the BMW Laser Light equipped models are under 3cm tall, versus 8cm for those using regular LEDs.
A cluster of the laser diodes are focused onto a fluorescent phosphorus on the inside of the headlamp via lenses, and transferred into bright white light which BMW says is ten times more intense than usual lamps. That means BMW can actually reduce the power but still get the same illumination.
In fact, up to 600m of visibility is expected, despite a power saving of 30-percent. BMW will also use forward-facing cameras to monitor for oncoming traffic and automatically dip the beams, so as to avoid dazzling them.
The BMW i8 won’t come with BMW Laser Light as standard, with the regular model instead using LED headlamps. Exactly how much the laser option will cost when it’s offered from fall 2014 has not been revealed yet, though the i8 itself will be priced from around $135,000.