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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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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.

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