The History & Evolution Of The Light Bar
- on April 20, 2021
- Categories: Blog
The History & Evolution Of The Light Bar
Whether you’ve been off-roading for years or are brand new to “off-roading life”, you’re familiar with the benefits of having light bars on your Jeep or off-road vehicle. What you may not know however, is the history and evolution of the light bar itself.
Chances are you’re familiar with the LED light bars we see today and you know their benefits for off-road use. LEDs or (light emitting diodes) produce light up to 90% more efficiently than incandescent light bulbs. However, light bars haven’t always been the super bright LEDs that are so common today. From carbide lamps, to tungsten vacuum lights, halogens, xenon lights and HPS/LPS, the automotive light bar industry has advanced significantly since it’s early days.
AeroLidz is on the cutting edge of light bar technology, evolving with the rapidly improving light bar technology world. We’ll cover the history and evolution of the off-road automotive light bar industry and how AeroLidz continues to not only stay up to date but has actually revolutionized the light bar industry.
The Early Days: Carbide Lamps (Acetylene Gas Headlamps)
Before we get into the types of light bars that AeroLidz offers today, let’s discuss where the light bar all started. Before we had modern lights, we had head lamps on our automotives fueled by acetylene or oil. The use of acetylene or oil headlamps date way back to the late 1880s! In the late 1880’s acetylene headlamps were popular because the flame was resistant to wind and rain, which as you can imagine was an important feature for automotive lights.
The burning of acetylene gas headlamps allowed drivers to drive at night in the early automotive days. The thick concave mirrors and magnifying lenses were able to project the burning acetylene gas or oil flame into light on the road.
Did you know Acetylene gas headlamps weren’t just popular in automotives? Carbide lamps were used widely in the caving and mining industry as well. That is until Christmas Eve in 1932 when the acetylene flame from a miner’s carbide lamp mixed with methane gas, exploding and killing 54 miners in Moweaqua, Illinois.
Because of the danger of the “open” flame of burning acetylene, the use of carbide lamps as lamps in the automotive industry lasted for only 10 years or so until reliable batteries and dynamos became available, and manufacturers switched to electric lights in the early 1900’s.
Electric Headlamps Of The Early 1900’s; Tungsten Vacuum Lights
Tungsten lights work as the filament of a vacuum incandescent lamp is heated to temperatures where visible light is emitted by resistance heating. Acting as an electrical resistor, the tungsten filament emits light that is proportional to the voltage applied times the current through the filament. In other words, it’s what you picture when you think of a traditional light bulb that has a filament that emits light and heats up when you flip the switch on in your home.
The first electric headlamp was produced by Columbi, an electric car company in 1898, if you can believe that! Though the original electric headlamp has evolved significantly it’s closely related to the modern headlights we see today. Due to the short filament life and difficulty of producing dynamos (machines that turn mechanical energy to electrical energy) that were small enough for headlamps but powerful enough to effectively light the road ahead, it took over 10 years for the electric headlight to catch on.
The Guide Lamp Company was responsible for most of the innovation of electric headlights throughout the 1910’s-1930’s. Prior to 1915, you had to physically get out of your car and adjust your headlights for high and low (could you imagine?!), that is until the Guide Lamp Company invented “dipping headlights”. The dipping headlights allowed for drivers to use a lever to switch from low beam to high beam from inside the vehicle, which was a pretty big deal in 1915. Throughout the 20’s and 30’s the Guide Lamp Company and others continued to innovate the automotive headlight industry introducing foot operated dip switches and three beam headlights for “County Passing”, “Country Driving”, and “City Driving”.
The 7” inch standard round sealed headlights were standard in the United States throughout the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and into the 1970’s. During these decades Cadillac introduced the first auto hi/lo automotive lighting system and towards the end of the 1950’s and into the early 60’s Cadillac became the first auto manufacturer to successfully mass manufacture an electric headlight impermeable to the elements of the road.
The “Modern” Halogen Lamps; 1960’s-2010’s
As technology started to evolve, as did the automotive headlight industry and in the late 60’s Europe introduced halogen headlights. For reasons unbeknownst to us, the United States had intensity regulations that prohibited the use of halogen headlights for over a decade.
The Britanica defines a “Candela'' as a unit of luminous intensity in a given direction of a source that emits monochromatic radiation of frequency 540 × 1012 hertz and has a radiant intensity in that same direction of 1/683 watt per steradian or unit solid angle. In other words, brightness..it means brightness.
High beam peak intensity capped at 140,000 candelas in Europe, whereas in the United States intensity capped at 37,500 for each side of the car. In 1978, the limit in the United States was raised to 75,000 and after one of the deadliest decades of motor vehicle injuries in US history, the United States caught up to its European counterparts and adopted the use of Halogen headlights in US vehicles.
The Early Days Of The Off-Road Auxiliary Light Industry; Halogen & HID (High Intensity Discharge), And LEDs.
In 1968, a man by the name of Peter Kim Brown and Carol Brown, using the initials of his and his wife, founded a company by the name of KC. KC pioneered the off-road lighting industry using 55-watt halogen lamps. KC paved the way for many of the off-road lighting companies we see today.
For over 50 years KC and their iconic and distinguishable yellow “KC” and smiley face light pods have led the way of innovation in the light bar industry for Halogen light pods. There have been many companies that have joined the light bar industry over the years but few as disruptive and game changing as the company out of St.Charles, Missouri, AeroX Industries.
AeroX Industries, often referred to simply as AeroLidz, has taken the light bar industry and flipped it upside down! But before we get into how AeroLidz has changed the game, let’s quickly discuss the three modern forms of light bars and which is best for you.
Halogen, HID, & LED: What’s The Best Off-Road Light Bar For You?
Halogen light bars are the oldest and least efficient of the three common, modern off-road light bar designs. As we discussed earlier, Halogen lights are similar to that of the traditional incandescent light bulbs, where a tungsten filament heats up and creates light. Halogen lights consume more power than alternatives and place the highest demand on your Jeep or off-road vehicles electrical system.
There have been many advancements in automotive off-road light bar technology over the years. Some of the biggest advancements include improvements to the components and the power systems themselves, which have all improved considerably. Due to halogens' high demand for power consumption and limited lifespan, HID and LED lights are two of the most popular light bar types.
High Intensity Discharge lights or HID lights, are very popular in high end luxury cars, trucks, SUV’s, and in off-road applications. Xenon HIDs require time to warm up and operate at 100% efficiency, due to the xenon gas needing to heat up inside the bulb. HID lights are powerful lights but they’re expensive and they don’t last as long as LEDs.
LED light technology has been around for years, since the late 60’s in fact. However, back then the technology wasn’t advanced or bright enough to actually use in automotive applications. In 2004, Audi came out with the A8 which was the first car to use LED daytime running lights.
Though Lexus was the first to introduce LEDs on their LS models in 2006, it was Audi that truly pioneered the LED automotive lighting game. Audi introduced the first full LED headlights when their Audi R8 hit the market in 2007. Thereafter, companies such as Cadillac, Mercedes-Benz, and BMW all followed suit, introducing LEDs in their luxury line of vehicles.
As LED lighting technology advanced and started to become standard amongst many automobile companies, off-road lighting companies started to transition from HID and Halogen lights to the LEDs that are most popular today.
The reason LED light bars are so popular is because they’re easily the most efficient option for off-road lighting for your Jeep or off-road vehicle. Light emitting diodes (LEDs) use far less energy and last much longer than HID and Halogen bulbs. Additionally, there’s no ballast like you see in HID Xenon lights so there’s no warm up time for your lights to operate at 100% efficiency.
LED light bars offer the best choice in terms of performance, reliability, and lifespan, which is why AeroLidz sells only LEDs for their off-road light bars.
Why AeroXIndustries Is Leading The Way In Off-Road Lighting
AeroXIndustries, colloquially referred to as AeroLidz, is leading the way in off-road lighting because AeroLidz has identified the solution to one of the most common issues with off-road light bars; the light humming sound!
Off-road enthusiasts and Jeepers alike are all too familiar with the humming or buzzing sound from their light bar, particularly when driving down the highway. Unfortunately, many off-road lovers experience this with their light bars for one simple reason; aerodynamics (or lack thereof).
The lack of aerodynamics inspired AeroXIndustries to introduce noise canceling technology, through their light bar silencers, which is where the name “AeroLidz” comes from. AeroLidz flipped the off-road lighting community upside down when they introduced their incredible one-of-a-kind noise-canceling light bar covers. These light bar cover silencers are aerodynamically designed to effectively eliminate that irritating whistle coming from your light bar!
Will AeroLidz Light Bar Covers Fit My Current Light Bar?
Yes, AeroLidz light bar covers are designed for a perfect combination fit with your 50”-52” light bars, 30”-32” inch light bars, and even 20”-22” inch bars on your rig! AeroLidz single row light bar covers should fit light bars with 1.4 - 2" inch housing faces. The double row light bar covers provide a universal fit for Straight Dual Row LED Light bars with a 2.8” to 3.5” housing face. Our covers should fit your existing straight light bars and can also be easily cut down to fit any length straight light bar.
Even though our light bar covers fit your existing straight light bars, we always recommend picking up your light bar and light bar cover combo through AeroLidz! AeroLidz uses only high quality LED lights in their light bars that are durable and long lasting and our light bar silencer covers are always a perfect fit! If you’re picking up your light bar cover or if you already have an existing light bar cover with AeroLidz, shop for your light bar cover inserts today!
AeroLidz takes your customization up a notch by providing awesome cover inserts to slip into your cover giving your light bar some extra personality. Whether you want to show off your county or state pride, your military branch, your favorite sports team, or anything in between AeroLidz offers it all! If you can’t find the cover that best fits your personality, you can even create your own cover insert!
Shop AeroLidz for the best light bars, light bar covers, and light bar cover inserts today!