Rocket Fuel

An “Illuminating” Momentum

Through the course of automotive history, there have been several developments that have proven to be true game changers. The implantation of features like seatbelts, airbags, turn signals, and headlights have made vehicles safer and easier to drive. Exterior lighting, in particular, has made vehicles much safer by increasing visibility and made it possible to drive at night. Today, we will take a look at the exterior lighting of the Elio.

During the development phase of the Elio, dramatic changes were made to the headlights. The headlights seen on the P2 and P3 were much different than the headlights on subsequent iterations. On the P2 and P3, the head lamps were mounted on the body. Beginning with the P4, the headlights were flush with the body of the vehicle. This change was made to decrease drag and improve the aerodynamics of the Elio. This design change was crucial in our mission to produce an ultra-high-mileage vehicle.

Here is a photo of the P3 and P4 side-by-side to show the change:

P3 and P4

Once the decision was made to make the headlights part of the body, we needed to finalize the design of the headlight. There are several determining factors when it comes to the headlight design including cost, electrical architecture, and energy budget (the amount of energy needed from the alternator.) Other factors, from a more macro standpoint, include aerodynamics, aesthetics, and weight. And, of course, optimum visibility is paramount from a safety standpoint.

Currently, there is no rating system for headlights, however this may change in the future. To ensure that we will be compliant in the event of necessary ratings, our engineers have been tasked to optimize the amount of light that is produced. While the Elio will not be registered as an automobile, we will use two headlights for obvious safety purposes. Our design is mounted lower than most vehicles, and with the split lighting we believe we can avoid the glare for oncoming traffic, as well as pedestrians.

Front light

The current direction design utilizes a reflective-style headlights. We are using reflector-style headlights to keep costs down, however these headlights do command a large segment of our energy budget. In the future, we are considering using a projector-style LED headlamp which would require significantly less electricity. The costs at the current time, however, do not fit in with our value proposition. If costs come down, we will strongly consider changing from our current reflector design to projector, LED headlights.

rear lamp

The rear exterior lighting is equally important in regards to optimizing safety. We have one taillamp which reaches approximately 22 inches across. We are using a total of five incandescent bulbs. Two are located on the right, two on the left, and one is placed in the center. The outside lights are brake and turn signal lights, the two inside lights are running lights for visibility, and the center light is a back-up light. Along with our suppliers, we are exploring the possibility of using LEDs for the rear exterior lighting. As with the front lights, the decision will depend on reasonable costs, as well as proper luminance.

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