Audi R18 e-tron quattro: Now with laser headlights

Stephen Edelstein
20 December 2013


If ever there was a car that was perfect for mounting lasers on, it's the Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

Audi's updated Le Mans Prototype will be racing through the night with laser headlights. The German automaker says this is the first time the technology has been used at the world's most famous endurance race.

The lighting system works by using a blue laser beam to back-light a yellow phosphorous crystal lens; the actual beam emitted by the headlights is white. Audi says the lasers provide more homogenous lighting, and hopes to eventually apply the technology to production cars.

Laser light is monochromatic, so it doesn't project across all areas of the spectrum like the light emitted from conventional sources. This creates greater light density and a more precise beam. In other words, more light where you want it.

This might be a missed opportunity, though. Lasers would be much more exciting if Audi's engineers could find a way to attack other cars with them. That would add a whole new dimension to the action at Le Mans.

While the 2014 Audi R18 e-tron quattro won't be able to shoot down its opponents like Luke Skywalker bull's-eying a Womp Rat, it will be a very impressive machine. It's expected to have the same turbodiesel hybrid powertrain as last year's race winner, but with several improvements such as a new electric turbocharger and a chassis that's 100 pounds lighter.

Audi isn't the only carmaker developing laser headlights. BMW has laser-light technology of its own, which it plans to offer on the 2015 i8 plug-in hybrid sports car. The laser lights will be offered as an option for the car's high-beams.

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