Since the first commercial road transport vehicle hit the road, the quality and efficiency of electric lighting revolutionised the industry’s ability to run 24 hours a day. But, the days of relying on that old technological behemoth, the incandescent light bulb, are numbered as LED now lights the way.
Today’s technology-savvy market is noted for the speed with which it changes and evolves, and the field of illumination is no different. With a transport world focused on tare weight, return on investment and environmentally friendly performance, Edison’s life-changing invention has had to increasingly step aside as light emitting diodes – better known as LED – are further developed to take its place.
For instance, in Germany, lighting specialist Hella has now introduced a technology that is likely to boost the transition to LED in Europe’s heartland. In 2004, Hella first presented a range of LED-based lighting gear specifically designed for Europe’s demanding trailer industry and thus began reversing the notion that LED was a “techno trend” and instead, was a highly adaptable concept and is on its way to being more widely adopted. Based on its early experience, the company has developed and now unveiled a modular system named ‘EasyConn – Next Generation’.
As opposed to the first generation, the new system is not sealed by a permanent weld. Experience in the field has shown that a sealed unit is too expensive to run in the long term, says Jan-Hendrik Aschmann, Managing Director of Hella Trailer Systems. “If one function failed, you had to replace the entire unit instead of just changing one defective globe.”
Hella went back to the drawing board and developed a “conventional” solution based on a screwed lens covering individual modules that form the rear light. And, since all modules are suitable for both left and right use, they can be combined as required. Adaptability became the core quest.
“The idea is to simplify the transition to LED by adjusting the system to the service routine people are already used to,” says Aschmann. “In addition, using variable modules reduces complexity and stock inventory. But, the key advantage is the system’s interchangeability. You can exchange each module for a traditional globe light or vice versa and you can even run a combination of both and still use the same base and lens.”
Another feature meant to simplify the transition to LED technology is a new wiring system based on the acquainted plug-and-play idea. “It includes a second, independent circuit to connect additional features such as working lamps or interior lighting,” says Aschmann. “As a result, you don’t have to interfere in the main circuit anymore and the lamp itself will act as the distributor box.”
The combination of high technology and realistic pragmatism is likely to boost Hella’s presence in the OEM market, which has been at the forefront of the LED revolution ever since the system entered mass production. So far, though, Germany’s trailer manufacturing industry has been using LED-powered contour lights and side-marker lamps only, while rear light, stop light, reverse light and indicators are still dominated by the plain old light bulb.
But, in a sign of contemporary times, plus a recognition that some trailer companies are still in a transition phase when it comes to lighting, Hella is now offering the EasyConn concept in both full-LED and semi-LED configurations. The semi-LED hybrid is still using classic light bulbs for reverse light, fog light and indicators. “Demand for the full-LED version is still low, because it is a bit more expensive than the light bulb-version,” says Aschmann. “But, we can see a distinct cost advantage in the long run since light bulbs need to be changed quite often, resulting in extra downtime and labour cost.”
In addition, the lifetime of light emitting diodes is measured in tens of thousands of hours; they are rugged, yet classified as environmentally friendly; and their compact size allows a high flexibility in controlling the light with secondary optics.
“LEDs are no longer a trend and as a variable platform they are the best technological development in lighting history,” Aschmann says. “They use only small amounts of electricity, can deliver light in different colours, illuminate almost instantly, have a long life and are shock resistant.”
According to Hella, all LED lamps are manufactured from a new generation acrylic material with enhanced impact resistance and high tolerance to chemicals, salt spray and cleaning fluids for ultra-long service life. “Our LED lamps operate with up to 60 per cent less current draw than comparable globe lamps and are required to remain fully operational under severe cold, heat and humidity while being subjected to high levels of vibration,” says Aschmann.
It is no surprise that German trailer giant, Krone, has already embraced the new modular hybrid light. “Krone is the first OEM to offer the semi-LED solution and the plug-and-play wiring system as standard equipment,” says Georg Fink, Head of Sales, Hella Trailer Systems. In fact, industry insiders predict that Krone’s foray is the first step to superseding the traditional light bulb in Germany’s contested trailer manufacturing market. “Although the full-LED version is still optional, we sense a notable shift throughout the industry.”