In recent years, a striking trend in automotive design has emerged, inciting both admiration and debate among enthusiasts and critics alike. This trend is the split headlight design, a unique approach that divides the headlight into two distinct sections: an upper part featuring the Daytime Running Lights (DRLs) and a lower part housing the main beams.

A Dual Purpose Design

The rationale behind this split design is rooted in the dual functionality of headlights. The primary role of DRLs is to ensure that a car is visible to other road users without causing discomfort or blinding effects. These lights are strategically placed at the upper corners of the vehicle's front, making the car's position and dimensions clear without overwhelming brightness.

Conversely, the main beams aim to illuminate the car's path and ensure visibility of the road, other vehicles, and pedestrians. To avoid dazzling oncoming traffic, these beams are positioned lower, striking a balance between visibility and safety.

FIAT Multipla and Pontiak Aztek first cars with split headlights design

FIAT Multipla (1998) and Pontiac Aztek (2000)

Pioneers of the Split Headlight Design

Though the split headlight concept isn't entirely new — with early examples like the Fiat Multipla (1998), the Pontiac Aztec (2000) and the Rolls Royce Phantom (2003) — it was the Nissan Juke in 2010 that first distinguished the functions of DRLs and main beams in its design. Citroën followed suit with the Cactus in 2014, further popularizing this style.

A Canvas for Creativity

The separation of DRLs and beams has opened a new avenue for creativity in automotive design. Designers now enjoy greater freedom in shaping the light signature of DRLs, a move that's quickly becoming a hallmark of brands like Audi with its upcoming Q6 e-tron and the next-gen A7, as you can see in our very revealing illustrations. Similarly, Porsche's electric Macan and the future successor of the Lamborghini Huracan showcase innovative takes on this design, hinting at the diverse aesthetic possibilities it offers.

The future Audi A7 and Audi Q6 e-tron will both feature split headlights

Blending Tradition and Innovation

Interestingly, some manufacturers are merging this modern design with nostalgic elements. Volvo's EX90 ingeniously conceals the beams behind movable DRLs (same is expected for the ES90 sedan, as you can see in our future car render below), while Ferrari's Daytona SP3 introduces a dynamic headlight cover, reminiscent of the classic pop-up headlights, adding a retro touch to a futuristic design.

The Cybertruck's 48v slim design

One of the most interesting split headlights designs is that of the Tesla Cybertruck, which has exceptionally narrow beams. At just 2 cm tall, these beams are the industry's slimmest, signifying a major leap in headlight engineering. This remarkable slimness is likely made possible by the vehicle's pioneering 48V electrical system. While online confirmation regarding the utilization of 48V for these beams remains elusive, it would certainly provide a plausible explanation for their slender profile. If you possess any insights or information concerning the Cybertruck's lights operating on a 48-volt system, we encourage you to reach out, and we will gladly provide you with a backlink as acknowledgment.

The upcoming Volvo ES90 sedan which we illustrated here will hide the beams behind the DRLs like on the EX90

Looking Forward

As we stand on the cusp of this transformative era in car design, it's evident that the split headlight design isn't just a fleeting trend but a significant shift offering unprecedented creative freedom. With each new model release, manufacturers are pushing the boundaries of what's possible, promising a future where car headlights are not just functional but a dynamic canvas for innovation and style. We eagerly anticipate the next wave of designs that will further redefine our perception of automotive aesthetics.

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