One of the most disappointing things about a lower package Nissan LEAF (at least in the US) is the lack of LED headlights. My first EV was a 2011 Nissan LEAF, and it was an SL. The nice clean white light you get from LED lights really does make a difference. When I bought my 2018, I thought I couldn’t afford an SV or SL. Due to some really impressive fraud on the part of the dealer that I didn’t notice until later, I ended up paying SV prices for a car with halogen headlamps and many other very basic features.
After complaining about headlights and getting ripped off enough times on social media, someone sent me a DM offering me a set of LED conversion headlights. Truth is, I had already been considering shopping for better conversion bulbs, but like many other things in life, it never got all the way up the list. So, I agreed to do a review and they sent me some bulbs.
A few days later, I received a set of AUROPOLA brand bulbs, compatible with H8, H9, or H11 bulbs. A quick unpacking reveals an installation kit for the different situations you might run into if you put this in your vehicle. There are anti-static gloves, some sticky tape, zip ties, and of course, the headlights themselves.
You can also get these as a four pack, with both high beams and low beams, but I have only tested the low beams so far.
Unlike halogen bulbs, these come with a heat sink on the back with a little cooling fan and the wire comes out the side to a connector that fits the vehicle’s plug.
In my case, I didn’t have to use the zip ties or sticky tape, as I was able to fit the entire LED bulb assembly inside the closed compartment that the headlights normally sit inside of, and close the lid. The extra wire tucked away nicely inside of the little compartment. This made for a nice and clean installation without any extra wires sticking anywhere under the hood.
I started by doing just one headlight. Sure, one can take before and after photos of headlights, but unless your exposure settings are exactly the same, you can’t get an honest look at the brightness differences between the two types of bulbs. If you want to make lights look super bright in photos, you could just change exposure settings to make the same set of bulbs look like they’ve been “upgraded” to something brighter.
So to be fair, I ran one new bulb and one old bulb side-by-side to make sure that readers could get a fair and honest view of how different the factory halogen bulb of the Nissan LEAF S is from the AUROPOLA LED bulbs.
They Don’t Blind People (At Least Not In This Car)
Something of critical importance to me with any kind of bulb upgrade is that I don’t want to be one of those morons that drives around blinding other drivers, cyclists, or just innocent passers-by who don’t deserve to have their retinas blasted with an ungodly number of lumens. Sure, I’ll see better, but that doesn’t help if I blind some other driver and they crash, especially if they crash into me! I can be pretty spicy on Twitter, but that doesn’t mean I want to be a jerk for absolutely no reason to others.
Fortunately, this wasn’t a problem. The LEAF S does come with halogen bulbs, but it still has a projector headlamp. Instead of being a light next to a mirrored surface of some kind that reflects the light forward (a reflector headlamp), the light is put through a lens that focuses it onto the right spots on the road. If you look at a projector headlamp closely, you’ll notice that it has a “ballcap” like part above the lens that keeps the light from going upward. This makes for a nice cutoff of light to keep the low beams from blinding the crap out of people.
As you can see, the LED does nothing negative to this system safety-wise. The cutoff is still just as sharp, so the light won’t blind people except for in unusual situations, like hilly terrain or uneven intersections. Even in that circumstance, it’s only a brief situation that won’t hurt anybody. So, I can enjoy a brighter, whiter light and see more clearly at night, but without being a pest and a danger on the road.
I know there will be at least one “ackchuyally” dweeb in the comments saying that LED bulbs won’t pass inspection or some crap. I don’t have inspections in my state (and if I did, the bulbs aren’t obviously different under the hood), and the police have much better things to do than bother some mom for having LED bulbs in a car that usually comes from the factory with LED bulbs, even if there’s some obscure federal regulation or something that you can cite. It doesn’t blind people and it doesn’t hurt anything, so it’s really not worth worrying about.
Better Side Visibility
Not only does it give me better light in the areas where the old headlamps shined brightly, but it also puts off more light to the sides. Just on the 3 nighttime drives I’ve taken with the new LED bulbs, I’ve noticed a couple of animals and people on the side of the road that I think I would have missed with the old lights. It’s not a big difference, but it would definitely help me to see someone who was going to walk into the street at the last second.
There’s one good thing here and one very minor bad thing.
The good thing is that it makes the car look more “premium” at night. This may seem silly, but these days older and cheaper cars project yellowish light while the cooler and newer cars tend to make white or even slightly bluish light. This really began when alternatives to halogen bulbs started to appear a couple of decades ago. The cool cars started coming with xenon or HID bulbs which cast a cool bluish light that changed as the car went by. The idiots driving “shitboxes” who spend too much money at Auto Zone responded to this trend by putting in halogen bulbs with blue lenses, and I even saw a few people in high school who wrapped their headlights with blue Walmart shopping bags to make them bluish.
Now, there are LED and even laser-based automotive bulbs that all tend to make whiter light that helps you see at night better than halogen bulbs. It’s a little silly, but the car looks less cheap when it has white headlights.
One bad thing: there are some noticeable lines in the light pattern now. They don’t have any negative effect, as the lines are just slightly dimmer, but if you’re expecting smooth light with no little lines in the light pattern, you’ll get that with these bulbs. Other LED bulbs with more LED arrays (the little spots that make the light) tend to have less of this problem. I’m not OCD enough to be bothered by this, so I’m happy.
Yes, the lights use less power. No, there’s no noticeable difference in range. There would probably be no measurable difference, either. The bulbs use 40 watts total, which is a lot less power than the 110 watts the factory halogen bulbs use. That means they’re saving a whopping 70 watts. Over the course of an hour, that’s .07 kWh, or in the case of my car maybe a third of a mile of range would be saved. If you drove for 10 hours at night (I used to do this for Uber and Lyft a few years back), that would equal .7 kWh, or about 3-4 miles of range used up by the lights.
But this is all theoretical. Driving speeds, weather conditions, use of heater or A/C, and many other things affect the range more than the headlights could. So, in reality, this tiny range boost is probably not measurable, much less noticeable, in the real world. So don’t buy LED lights for range. Aerodynamics is where the real savings can be had if you’re the DIY ecomodder/hypermiler type.
All images by Jennifer Sensiba
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