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  • Buggies Take the Lead in LED Progress
Aug 2003
GORDONVILLE, Penn., August 14 -- "When you're traveling at a fraction of the speed of traffic and it's dark, you don't want to run the risk of having your lights die."

That's the advice of Lumileds Lighting and SunLine Solar Inc., a part-Amish-owned alternative-energy firm, who have come together to market a light-emitting diode (LED) designed for Amish horse-drawn buggies.

"Developed for Amish buggies with eight powerful LED emitters toward the front and a red warning LED toward the back, you don't have to wear a wide-brimmed hat to think of many uses for this versatile light," says Sunline's online product description.

The Model 8LED headlight uses high-brightness Luxeon LEDs, along with directional optics, but it's electricity-free (it uses a solar or motor-powered generator), so it's Amish-approved. The Amish are members of a religious group that has its roots in the Mennonite community and are known for their spartan lifestyle, which includes shunning most modern conveniences.

The LED buggy warning system has caught the attention of local TV stations, and of media as far-reaching as Newseek.

"Old incandescent buggy lights had to be recharged after every six hours of use, and the LED only needs recharging every 100 hours. Carriage shops in Pennsylvania Dutch country, home to the highest concentration of Amish residents, are taking notice," reported Newseek in a recent article. Elam Beiler, president of Sunline Solar, told the magazine that Amish buggy drivers have only one hesitation: the price. A Luxeon headlight costs about $100.

But Lumileds Lighting, the San Jose, Calif. maker of the Luxeon LED, said prices should drop when LEDs become widely used in other modes of transportation. The Luxeon is being tested for automobile headlights and should make its debut on cars by 2007.

For a change, the Amish might be considered ahead of their time.

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