The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about Transport probably isn’t lighting. However, as in all things, lighting does play a big role in how we get from A-to-B, especially as people are often travelling in the dark in the winter months.
Here we take you over land, air and sea to find out just how LEDs are being used, or are going to be used, in our transport system.
The London Underground
The London Underground has been around for 150 years, and is as much a famous historical landmark as it is a transport centre. Luckily the lights have moved on from the 1860s, and excitingly for the lighting industry, the first all-LED station at Bond Street is due for completion as soon as 2017, with Victoria and Tottenham Court Road joining in 2018.
The reason for the switch is as much about practicality as it is energy savings. The reality is that many of the lights are difficult to access, and especially with some lines being open 24/7, maintenance often causes big disruptions in the service. LED lights are much easier to maintain, as they are more durable, and can be cleaned easier than fluorescents as they don’t contain mercury, which is a big potential hazard underground. Also their long life spans mean they don’t need to be replaced as often, making maintenance easier, and reducing the overall costs of purchasing lights.
In fact, in the next decade we may see LEDs being used on a much wider scale on the Underground. Plans have been unveiled for a new Tube which uses LEDs on the actual carriage itself. White LEDs will light the inside of the single, open-plan carriage design, changing to red when moving backwards, and LED strips on the front of the possibly driverless tube. LED panel screens will also replace paper advertisements, and will offer real time information.
Trains over-ground face much of the same difficulties as the Tube underground. The use of LEDs is creeping in, with many stations being updated to LED lighting. One of the driving factors of this change isn’t savings however, but satisfaction, as a big improvement in light quality has been found to change people’s opinion of the station itself. Brighter lights also mean less accidents and can make people feel safer if they are travelling at night.
Retail is also a big driving factor for brighter station lights, as it has been found that people are more likely to spend when there are bright lights. As many of the bigger stations already have a vast number of big name brands installed, any way to boost their profitability is important. The plans to install Wi-Fi into LEDs, which is already being trialled in some supermarkets, could also potentially be brought into train stations to, for example, guide people to their platform.
Headlights are the main focus when thinking about lighting in the motor industry. There are many positives in the use of LEDs such as their small size allowing for greater manipulation in headlight design, their energy savings which are really big draws for greener cars like the Toyota Prius, and their long lifespans meaning replacements don’t have to be as frequent. However, because of their high production costs and some problems with the bottom of the fitting becoming too hot, many are unwilling to take the LED plunge just yet. Hopefully this won’t take too long though, as costs across all LEDs are declining, and things like the intelligent Audi A8 which dims the light when it detects an oncoming vehicle, do show a lot of promise for LEDs.
For smaller boats, using LEDs can mean that another charging facility is not needed on board to run the navigation and interior lights, and if these can be run on solar power, the energy consumption is dramatically reduced. Also, because of their long lifespans, if a boat is offshore there isn’t the worry about whether the lights are going to last the night.
These types of light can also be useful for yachts, as an alternative for their interior lights in order to reduce energy consumption and control the cabin from becoming over heated. Also strip lights are very popular on yachts, as accent lighting around the interior of the boat, especially on railings and behind bar areas.
Some LEDs can also be used as underwater lighting, although they have to be up to the correct standard. This can be for aesthetic purposes, but can also be useful for looking at the surrounding area around the boat, for example if you were looking for a place to anchor or if someone fell overboard. Interestingly, this can also be a useful application for fishing as some types of fish are attracted to the lights, reducing the need to keep buying bait.
Airlines are interested in two things: reducing weight and reducing fuel needs, as these will drive prices down which will hopefully boost their sales. Lighting contributes to both these things and LEDs can help reduce these problems, due to their lightness and using less energy to produce the same light. In fact, in April 2015 Delta called for the world’s largest plane LED retrofit, with all of their 1224 planes being re-fitted with LEDs over the next few years. Although exact numbers have not been released yet, this is thought to save the company under 0.0XX% fuel but this translates to over $50,000 being saved per aircraft, per year. This also means that there should be fewer delays due to maintenance as the lights should last longer than the plane does!
Even more advanced are the predictions that in the next decade, the interiors of a plane with their expensive and heavy windows may be replaced with OLED (organic light emitting diode) screens, projecting an image of the outside sky into the plane using cameras, saving weight and fuel. Luckily for nervous flyers , these could be turned off and other screens could be made available. However, we may be waiting a while for this futuristic outlook, as price is a huge issue, as is the screens sensitivity to moisture. For some these problems may be a frustrating setback, but others may be relieved at the wait.