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The 2013 Ford Fusion  (Source: Ford Motor Company)
"Ice blue" will be the default light setting for Ford line, "white" for Lincoln

At a event on "lightscaping" Ford Motor Comp. (F) discussed its transition to LED lighting and what is sees as the marriage of science and design when it comes to illuminating the interior of the automobile.

I. Ford Pushes LED Shift 

Cabin lighting is almost as old as the automobile itself; by the 1940s many cars were already sporting dome lights [source].  Gradually glovebox and instrument cluster lighting became ubiquitous as well, satisfying the basic needs of car goers.  But even as other components involved, lighting stood static, driven by failure-prone incandescent bulbs.

But that's beginning to change.  Automakers have begun to push light-emitting diodes (LEDs) both for exterior lights (LED headlamps, tail lights, brake lights, etc.) and for interior lighting.  Ford has been among the companies pushing hardest.

Ford introduced LED lighting in the 2003 model year Lincoln Navigator, an entry-level luxury SUV.  Since then it's been slowly trickling the technology down to its mass market vehicles, including sedans.

The culminations of what Ford calls 8 years of efforts is found in the 2013 Ford Fusion, which is Ford's first mass-market vehicle to use only LEDs on its interior.

 Ford Fusion interior
The upcoming 2013 Ford Fusion will exclusively use LEDs for interior lighting, with the default color being "ice blue". [Image Source: Ford Motor Company]

Already sitting pretty with hybrid-like mileage in its gas-only variant, the new Fusion will carry Ford's new default "Ice Blue" lighting color, which the company says first popped up in the 2011 Ford Explorer.

Ford technical leader for Design, Mahendra Dassanayake, states, "Lighting is evolving from basic needs to how to deliver enhanced experience, comfort, and convenience."

II. "Ice Blue" -- Ford's New Interior Color of Choice

Traditionally, despite Ford's logo being a shade of blue, Ford's interiors were lit with red incandescent bulbs, which whose light was sent through filters to present a green appearance.  According to Ford and its academic partners, green was a color that was traditionally associated with relaxation.

But the new shade "ice blue" should help improve both driver attentiveness is psychologically associated with luxury, according to Ford.  Ford says that research has shown different colors of light activate different parts of the human brain.  While such statements might seem a bit nebulous and biased, the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York in 2008 published quantitative research that showed that shining a blue light on drowsy drivers helps keep them awake (and alive).

Ford Color infographic
An infographic on emotions associated with certain colors from Ford. (If purple is magical, how come the iPad is black?) [Image Source: Ford Motor Company]

(Lincoln-branded vehicles will use white LED light, by default.)

Ford says that OSRAM Slyvania, Inc. (privately held) provided most of its diode elements, designed to a strict "specification of power, color, and reliability."

An added perk of Ford's switch to LEDs is the addition of user specified tones.  While "ice blue" may come standard, drivers can also select orange, red, green, purple, or blue tones.  Ford accomplishes these different shades by packaging a red, a green, and blue LEDs into a unified package with waveguides.  Thus producing a certain shade is as elementary as driving each diode at a particular milliamp current level, although in practice picking universally appreciated shades is a subject of considerable thought and consideration.

The previous Ford Fusion had this perk for accent lights, but the new Fusion extends variable lighting to the cabin in its entirety.

III. Costs are Offset by Savings, Luxury

LED lights -- particularly bright ones -- remain expensive.  But the switch ultimately nets Ford numerous savings in the long-run.  

One saving comes from not having to replace interior bulbs.  According to Ford engineers, an average incandescent lightbulb last "2, maybe 3 years" in an oft-used automobile.  By contrast Ford's Interior Chief Designer Michael Arbaugh says that LED lights' life is "more than the car."

LEDs wide
The LED bulbs in Ford's interiors will likely outlive the vehicle, say their designers.  They are unlikely to ever need a replacement. [Image Source: Instructables]

Aside from simple heat-stress failure, Ford says that the filaments in incandescent bulbs can fail due to vibrations, such as the loading of a truck.  So borrowing Ford's assumption that the average vehicle sees around 10 years, and 150,000 miles of deployment, that's anywhere from 3 to 5 replacement bulbs, on average, per light source.

And Ford says that the LED package is a fourth the size is a fourth the size of a incandescent-bulb based package.  This saves Ford time and money both on packaging the element and on the assembly line.

Overall the reliability and efficiency of the small components, coupled with the luxury justify the small expense, Ford feels.  And unlike some competitors, Ford feels the time is now for LED in mass-market non-luxury vehicles.

Mr. Arbaugh pitches, "The outside is about love, the inside is about happiness."

Well, happiness and LEDs, that is.

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And so?
By YashBudini on 2/23/2012 6:47:19 PM , Rating: 2
Is there any reason for light bulb sockets anymore? Do you need any more plastic than what's necessary to hold the LED in place?

RE: And so?
By Spuke on 2/23/2012 7:09:59 PM , Rating: 4
They do still go out just not as often. I'd want an easy user replaceable socket or an equivalent.

RE: And so?
By TSS on 2/23/2012 7:37:39 PM , Rating: 2
Legacy reasons. Putting a socket around a new type of lightbulb is easy. Adjusting every socket in every house in all of the world around a new type of lightbulb, not so easy.

That and LED lighting is still nowhere near traditional lighting techniques. One LED is pretty dim so you have to pack in quite a few. Problem is though that doesn't give ambient light, just alot of directional light.

When i moved out on my own a year ago i had a long look at LED lighting. Basically, when you use it as a spot light whatever you're aiming it at will be bright enough. But like a flash light everything around it will be dark.

You can use reflection to get a more ambient light, but the problem is the luminocity completly drops off. Because it's only as bright as normal lighting in a limited area, if you spread that light around a bigger area, it's alot less bright. That's basic physics for ya.

So while their great for situations where you either don't need alot of light or want to indicate something, as regular ol' house lighting... not so much.

RE: And so?
By Master Kenobi on 2/23/2012 7:50:33 PM , Rating: 2
I have to agree with this. As for a car, LED lighting is just fine as it is a relatively small area and it's easy to handle. For home use you're still really stuck with Flourescent as the most energy efficient and long lasting without sacrificing overall light. LED's can get around this problem with an increase in light points so instead of a single ceiling light fixture for a room you end up with 4-5. Overall the LED will still be a cost winner and far outlast the competition. It's just a paradigm shift of changing the LEDs to perform more like a traditional light bulb or adjusting our lighting fixtures to accomodate the way LEDs operate.

RE: And so?
By sprockkets on 2/23/2012 8:02:17 PM , Rating: 2
The only real working LED lights I've seen easily available are those that are the light + trim fixture for $50. They spread the light very well and are nearly as bright as the CFL floods they replaced. They also barely got hot, unlike the equivalent bulb that would have gone in. The metal heatsink on it got just as hot as a CFL base would.

Also, I think the Mazda3 went all LED in the interior as well, though not sure if all trims got it.

RE: And so?
By Flunk on 2/24/2012 10:03:16 AM , Rating: 2
I have a 2010 Mazda 3 base model, the dashboard and instrument lighting is LED, the cabin lighting is incandescent. Maybe they changed that in the 2012 model.

RE: And so?
By Keeir on 2/23/2012 8:39:06 PM , Rating: 2

Phillips has a pretty good LED light bulb.

Of course its pretty expensive. And it used 12 watts for 800 lumens.. which is just barely better the CFLs.

RE: And so?
By quiksilvr on 2/23/2012 10:32:30 PM , Rating: 3
True, but it lasts multiple times longer and has no mercury. And you can dim it. And drop it without damaging it.

RE: And so?
By Pneumothorax on 2/24/2012 8:54:17 AM , Rating: 2
I like the fact of the LED floods much better than CFL's, but considering here in CA, CFL's are heavily subsidized and often sell for $8 for a pack of 4 or less, whilst high quality phillips/sylvania LED floods still go for >$50 each!

RE: And so?
By VahnTitrio on 2/24/2012 11:20:07 AM , Rating: 2
And for those of us using them in garages in cold climates; LEDs work better in a cold environment whereas CFLs are "is it on yet?" The Philips bulb is fugly though, and there are more solutions than Philips if you only need a 40W. 60W alternative that aren't so fugly also are close to market. As far as dimming an LED; most dimmers work, there are a few types that don't seem to work.

RE: And so?
By dubldwn on 2/24/2012 10:58:02 AM , Rating: 2
I just bought several of these. I'm very happy and have officially made the switch. They look space age. F cfl.

RE: And so?
By VahnTitrio on 2/24/2012 11:16:02 AM , Rating: 2
LED bulbs that emulate an incandescent are very very close to market. 40W equivalents are already on the market, and 60W equivalents are not far behind (there's a few thermal issues to work out as recessed lighting is not a good place to passively cool something).

RE: And so?
By Zaranthos on 2/24/2012 8:58:57 PM , Rating: 2
They make some pretty decent LED light bulbs here. They keep getting better with every new generation of LED and prices keep dropping.

RE: And so?
By tng on 2/23/2012 9:17:13 PM , Rating: 2
Basically, when you use it as a spot light whatever you're aiming it at will be bright enough.
I have bought quite a few of the Slyvania LED "bulbs" for recessed lights over sinks and such. You are correct that the light is directional, but they have gotten better over the last couple of years.

What I really like about the Slyvania bulbs is that the light is so much better than CFL types and other brands of LED bulbs that I have gotten in the past.

RE: And so?
By JediJeb on 2/24/2012 2:51:21 PM , Rating: 2
I have some of the 40W equivalents over my kitchen table and they are actually much brighter than the 40W incandescent bulbs they replaced.

I did notice something weird the other day though. When I switch them off and there are no other lights in the house, I notice that they continue to glow dimly for a while after I turn them off. Kind of a eerie effect for sure.

RE: And so?
By Stiggalicious on 2/24/2012 9:15:49 AM , Rating: 2
Bridgelux makes these 90W LED diodes:
These bad boys are only 2 inches square, and they spit out 9750 lumens (max rating is 15,600). Of course they're crazy expensive, but hey, this one diode spits out as much light as 25 40W incandescents.

How often do interior lights actually get replaced?
By tayb on 2/24/2012 4:50:07 PM , Rating: 2
I think Ford is grossly exaggerating traditional bulb failure rates on vehicles. I don't have any hard data (and I'm not sure it exists) but simply asking around I couldn't find anyone I know who has ever had to replace the interior lights of their cars. Granted, most of my friends and family don't hang on to cars more than 5-7 years but I do know one person who has been driving the same car since 1996 and even SHE has never changed interior lighting.

To take it a step further I'm not even sure this is an improvement. LED lighting is great for directional lighting such as a flashlight but it has shortcomings when trying to illuminate a large area. I'm willing to take that sacrifice in certain scenarios where LED will save me money on electricity but in a non-electric car I'm not sure what the real benefit would be.

By Keeir on 2/24/2012 5:16:35 PM , Rating: 2
Errr... Where do you think the electricity comes from for lightening in cars? It comes from the running the engine, which runs on oil. Data from the Chevy Volt's range extender would suggest that at best you getting 10-11 kWh from a gallon of gasoline. If you look at running a single interior light ~1,500 hours over the lifetime of the car, a 30W reduction in running wattage results in a net savings of 4+ gallons of gasoline.

By Netscorer on 2/24/2012 9:57:06 PM , Rating: 2
1,500 hours is roughly 30 minutes per day. That's every day for 10 years. Who the F keeps the interior lights on for that much? Just another number that was pulled out of one's shiny metal a.. to justify their 'scientific' analysis.
And even if you're right - 4 gallons over 10 years at $4 per gallon would mean, brace yourself, $.03 savings per week or two soda cans per year. Great savings!

By Keeir on 2/27/2012 4:35:36 PM , Rating: 2

I think you'd benefit significant by reading.

Interior Lights DNE Overhead Dome Lights.

There are a variety of "interior" lights in a car. Some of which may run less than 1,000 hours and some which will run significantly more than 2,000 hours.

And even if you're right - 4 gallons over 10 years at $4 per gallon would mean, brace yourself, $.03 savings per week or two soda cans per year. Great savings!

The average cost increase per bulb? Around 25 cents.

Given the reduced running cost of 1.2 cents per hour on, it only takes ~21 hours of on time to make the LED start saying you money. (Again, this is because Gasoline --> Electricity costs roughly 0.40 cents per kWh) The remaining X time is all money in your pocket! Does it matter if its only a dollar or two?

By rich876 on 2/28/2012 9:57:52 AM , Rating: 2
Those figures are ridiculous.

By Netscorer on 2/24/2012 10:00:27 PM , Rating: 2
I'm with you. In my 15 years owning my second car at the moment, I never had to replace a single interior light. I know, this is not scientific, but I was surprised to see Ford engineer's number of 2-3 years on average. Someone out there must be very unlucky to come to averages with guys like you and me :-)

By dark matter on 2/26/2012 5:21:46 PM , Rating: 2
By God I've become cynical in my old age, when you start to contemplate agreeing with random Internet guy that claims he knows more about how often an interior light lasts than Ford.

Ford LED
By rich876 on 2/24/2012 10:29:39 AM , Rating: 2
So what's the big deal. I don't see this as news worthy. I know the bulb takes less power and will probably last longer. I'm a senior and in all my years of car ownership, I've never had to replace the interior light bulb.

RE: Ford LED
By JediJeb on 2/24/2012 2:57:42 PM , Rating: 2
Aside from simple heat-stress failure, Ford says that the filaments in incandescent bulbs can fail due to vibrations, such as the loading of a truck. So borrowing Ford's assumption that the average vehicle sees around 10 years, and 150,000 miles of deployment, that's anywhere from 3 to 5 replacement bulbs, on average, per light source.

I'm with you on that. I have a 96 F150 I have owned since 96 and have only had to replace two headlights so far. It has 225K miles on it and has seen more vibrations from loading and rough roads(if you can even call them roads) than many other vehicles and all my interior lights still work fine. Maybe it is just the newer models that have poorly made lights.

RE: Ford LED
By tng on 2/24/2012 5:42:10 PM , Rating: 2
I'm a senior and in all my years of car ownership, I've never had to replace the interior light bulb.
I had a 96 Honda that had one of the illumination lights for the heater controls go out once. The bulb was incandescent and only about 2 bucks, however it was a pain in the a$$ to replace. Almost had to remove the whole dash.

Other than that, yeah, only the occasional headlight or tail light.

RE: Ford LED
By dwbogardus on 2/27/2012 12:07:51 PM , Rating: 2
On my '78 Fairmont (275K miles), I've had to replace headlights (several times), brake lights, dome lights, shift indicator lights, and instrument panel lights, but not very often, over a period of many years. The lights behind the dashboard are a real pain, and are a great place for LEDs.

On my little Honda motorcycle, the engine vibration killed the turn signal lights evey couple of months, but the rest of the lights were fine for years.

And I've seen a lot of LEDs fail, mainly in cheap flashlights and nightlights, where they were being overdriven, at the expense of lifetime, with no heatsinking.
But good engineering can make LED bulbs and fixtures reliable, and volume use will drive affordability.

Ford's exaggerated claims of incandescent unreliability undercut their otherwise reasonable case for migration to
all LED bulbs.

Will it be any good?
By chmilz on 2/23/2012 9:32:11 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately I drive a Dodge Journey (company provided). It has LED interior lights, and they SUCK! They're dim and have almost no diffusion, meaning if it's not aiming at the exact spot I'm trying to see, it's useless. If I drop something on the floor or pull over to read/write something, they're largely worthless.

Of course, Ford isn't Chrysler, and the end result needs to be much better.

RE: Will it be any good?
By Gungel on 2/24/2012 9:37:26 AM , Rating: 1
Many new car models today use LED interior lighting. And yes, I agree that they are more directional, but they are better at everything else.

PS. Why is it always news here at Dailytech when Ford is involved? Welcome Ford to 2012 where LED is a standard for most other car companies.

RE: Will it be any good?
By rich876 on 2/28/2012 9:54:27 AM , Rating: 2
Ford loves to brag so this site just picks up on it.

RE: Will it be any good?
By FaaR on 2/24/2012 11:37:35 AM , Rating: 2
If I drop something on the floor or pull over to read/write something, they're largely worthless.

That (and your other complaint as well) is an implementation issue, not a tech issue. LED lighting is far superior to incandescent in pretty much any situation except in, say, a hot sauna or an oven (since LEDs can't take that level of heat.)

More than just costs savings..
By Jedi2155 on 2/24/2012 2:05:36 AM , Rating: 2
I wish the Volt had LED lighting. I've been using the interior lights a lot for reading in my car, and they always get so darn hot I'm afraid it would start melting the plastic.

Going to LED would mean there would be a lot less heat coming out not to mention that if you accidentally left your dome lights on over night, you probably wouldn't drain your car battery.

My first car was a used 1988 Camry and when I received it I noticed that the dome lights had completely melted some of the plastic diffusers on it. I've always been fearful of repeating this on newer cars especially since they can get so hot to the touch if you leave it on for a more than 10 minutes.

By bobsmith1492 on 2/24/2012 8:04:33 AM , Rating: 2
You'd still drain your car battery. Any car with LEDs though will be new enough to also have auto light shut-off to avoid that. That's what I hear anyway... my '89 Bronco II doesn't have automatic anything. :)

Different milliamp?
By bcwang on 2/24/2012 7:33:33 PM , Rating: 2
LED's are all on or all off, you cant get a different light output by changing voltage.(Granted many LED's are tolerant of a relatively large range of voltages)

Instead dimming is done by flashing the light extremely rapidly. This can work well for some colors, but if you are running to low level of a brightness for any specific color(by slower flashing) it can eventually get to the point where you can visibly see it.

RE: Different milliamp?
By naiche on 2/26/2012 1:53:38 PM , Rating: 2
LEDs CAN be dimmed by changing voltage, it's just that their luminosity is not proportional to the voltage, it's proportional to the current and LEDs, like regular diodes, only start to let current flow at a fixed voltage, and if you rise the voltage too much, they burn, So the voltage range is a bit narrow.

brake lights
By jwcalla on 2/24/2012 1:36:04 PM , Rating: 2
I still prefer the incandescents in the brake lights and turn signals. Just looks a lot less chincy than LEDs.

Delete me!!
By JKflipflop98 on 2/26/2012 4:16:27 PM , Rating: 2
" But even as other components involved, lighting stood static, driven by failure-prone incandescent bulbs."

I think you were goin for "evolved" there.

about time
By undummy on 2/27/2012 6:23:16 PM , Rating: 2
When one manufacturer leads, others will follow. Glad to see the movement toward LED lighting.

When I was a mechanic, replacing bulbs was common enough. The interior bulbs tend to be long-life lower wattage under-stressed bulbs. But like anything, they don't last forever and do fail. The quality of replacement bulbs is also hit or miss.

I've replaced most of my interior automotive bulbs with LEDs starting about 5 years ago. I prefer socket'd bulbs so that I can choose the color and brightness. Swap around the available brands until you get the look that you want. Or, build your own bulbs with resistor'd or driver driven LEDs.

Every watt consumed is wasted power. You might not notice it on your MPG calculations, but if millions of vehicle save a few ounces of fuel a year, it adds up.

By zephyrprime on 2/24/12, Rating: -1
RE: Lame
By FaaR on 2/24/2012 11:42:12 AM , Rating: 2
If the price of free news doesn't suit you, you can always get your fill someplace else on the interwebs...

By highlander2107 on 2/24/12, Rating: -1
"If you look at the last five years, if you look at what major innovations have occurred in computing technology, every single one of them came from AMD. Not a single innovation came from Intel." -- AMD CEO Hector Ruiz in 2007

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