Magna's ‘Surface Element Lighting' Technology Gives Volkswagen's New ID.4 Electric SUV a Futuristic Look

Magna's ‘Surface Element Lighting' Technology Gives Volkswagen's New ID.4 Electric SUV a Futuristic Look

Author: Eric Walz   

As lighting technology evolves in the auto industry, 12-volt incandescent light bulbs in vehicles are being replaced with smaller and more energy efficient and reliable LED lights, the same bulb technology that's being used to replace lighting in homes and buildings. 

The first vehicle equipped with LED headlamps in the U.S. was the Lexus LS 600h luxury sedan in 2007. But now LED technology is replacing standard bulbs in many other applications in the auto industry, including tail lamps, turn signals and vehicle interiors.

Automotive technology supplier Magna has developed a new LED technology it calls "Surface Element Lighting" that offers more dynamic lighting options for vehicle designers.

Magna's Surface Element Lighting LED lighting technology made its global debut on the 2021 Volkswagen ID.4 electric SUV and used in the tail lights. The overall lighting design of the ID.4 gives the EV its futuristic look. 

These light assemblies developed by Magna are made up of small LED panels that can be individually controlled. The technology provides vehicle designers with more options, including the ability to create signature lighting sequences, such as a greeting when a driver approaches and unlocks their vehicle.

The light animations can be customized within individual elements or in groups, such as lock/unlock, greet/goodbye, charge indicator, startup and turn signal indicator, according to Magna. The surrounding frame of the Surface Element Lighting can also be modified to create a unique 3D lighting effect.

The rear lights on the Volkswagen ID.4 are made up of individual compact LED panels which are about 4 millimeters thick. The compact LED panels can be installed more easily in tight spaces while offering near-endless design configurations, according to Magna. 

Each of the LED panels appear to be floating in front of a black background, creating a 3D look. When the driver applies the brakes the lights illuminate in the shape of an "X."

The 3D LED tail light clusters also produce a dynamic turn signal animation, moving from the inside towards the outside to clearly convey in which direction the vehicle is turning. 

"It fulfills vital functions in an intelligent way and represents an integral element of the exterior design," said Klaus Zyciora, Head of Volkswagen Group Design, last year. "Light is the new chrome."

In addition, designers have the option to offer vehicle owners a choice of different pre-programmed lighting animations to deliver an even greater level of personalization. The technology is catching on, especially in the luxury electric vehicle segment.

"Automotive designers are constantly looking for new ways to differentiate and lighting is one way to showcase creativity and brand image," said John O'Hara, President of Magna Mechatronics, Mirrors, Lighting and Magna Electronics. "With OLED-like uniformity at a fraction of the cost, Surface Element Lighting is a game-changer in terms of design and customization."

Magna's Surface Element Lighting builds upon its current portfolio of lighting solutions found on more than 140 vehicle models today. 

Magna is one of the world's largest suppliers to the auto industry with a 60 year history. The company has 158,000 employees, and its global network includes 347 manufacturing operations and 84 product development, engineering and sales centers in 28 countries.

In April, Volkswagen's electric ID.4 SUV was named  2021 "World Car of the Year." The awards were established to recognize, reward and inspire innovation in a rapidly changing automotive industry that's moving quickly towards electrification.

The World Car Awards are chosen by a group of 94 global automotive journalists who serve as "jurors." The vehicles are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 10 in eight separate categories, including Emotional Appeal and innovation.

The ID.4 is VW's second electric vehicle released under its new ID family of EVs. As part of the automaker's "Transform 2025+" strategy, the Volkswagen brand will invest 11 billion euros in electric mobility by 2024. 

Eric Walz
Eric Walz
Originally hailing from New Jersey, Eric is a automotive & technology reporter covering the high-tech industry here in Silicon Valley. He has over 15 years of automotive experience and a bachelors degree in computer science. These skills, combined with technical writing and news reporting, allows him to fully understand and identify new and innovative technologies in the auto industry and beyond. He has worked at Uber on self-driving cars and as a technical writer, helping people to understand and work with technology.
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