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by Matt Campbell

The groundbreaking laser headlights that will are touted to be available on the BMW i8 are still awaiting regulatory approval for Australian sale.

BMW Australia director of finance Peter Buchauer told CarAdvice at this week’s launch of the BMW M3 and M4 performance models in New Zealand that the new headlight technology is still not locked in to be offered locally.

While there was some consternation about which of the German brands – BMW or Audi – was first with laser headlight technology, BMW maintains that it was first despite the Audi R8 LMX being shown with its lights weeks before the i8 went on sale in Europe. Buchauer said he hopes the i8 will be the first car in Australia with the technology.

“We’re the first production car that is bringing this technology to the market with the i8,” insisted Buchauer. “Australia – we’re still in the approval process to get that through with the authorities, but I think we’re looking at that being a successful process, and we still have to wait a little bit for supply constraints to ease up. But it’s certainly something we want to get our hands on from an Australian market perspective.”

BMW Australia general manager of corporate communications Lenore Fletcher remained more circumspect about the chances of the technology making it to market.

“We’ll probably get it through. Initially we didn’t think we would be able to get it through,” said Fletcher, who indicated that there was more paperwork than usual involved in getting the high-tech lights homologated for the local market.

“We haven’t actually concluded that yet,” she said.

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When asked whether the lights would be fitted as standard to the $299,000 petrol-electric hybrid coupe if they were to be approved, Fletcher ruled out any such idea.

“I don’t think it will be standard. I don’t think they will be a standard fit anywhere (in the world),” Fletcher said.

The company would not be drawn to comment on the potential option price the lights may attract, but we’d expect they won’t come cheap given the amount of research, development and legwork that has gone in.

The laser headlights work by projecting a laser beam towards a cloud of yellow phosphorous gas. When the laser hits the gas, it emits a powerful white glow, which is then reflected and diffused to light up the road ahead. The laser light system will initially be used for high beam only.

BMW claims that the new headlamps are smaller, more energy efficient and can illuminate the road up to 600 metres ahead. By comparison the i8’s regular LED high beams can only manage 300 metres.

The BMW i8 will go on sale in Australia in March 2015.

Read our technical explanation of the different types of headlights here.




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