Euro-style Taillight Retrofit

Euro-style Taillight Retrofit

Has anyone looked into the possibility of obtaining a set of European-style Model S tail lights, and retrofitting them on a US Model S ?

I am curious if the electronics that control them are in the tail light assembly, or in the car's computer. The reason I ask, is that I prefer amber blinkers/flashers, and would like to do this retrofit, but if the computer of the car is what tells the LEDs in the tail light assembly how to blink, then I would not be able to do so without playing some firmware games that I am not willing to do.

BL-NJ | 05. desember 2013

I am also very interested in this. I am going to Europe in fall 2014 and would like to buy a set of Euro lights to bring back with me! That is, if the retrofit works.

stewart.horner | 05. desember 2013

I noticed the Green charge light we have on US models is not present on the EU versions as the plug size is different so they use the 4 small LED lights on the rear tail light next to charge port as Green flashing "Charging " lights. This may affect the retro fit ??

stephen.pace | 05. desember 2013

Presumably you just wouldn't hook up that part of the light. I'd ask your Tesla Service Center (they won't recommend doing this change, but you might be able to find out if they think it would have a chance of working). Like the guy who rigged up a secondary OEM backup camera on his front, I think you'd need to make an expensive gamble of buying the lights (they aren't cheap, by the way) and just trying it out. If it fails, maybe you can package them back up and return them or sell them to a European customer who has had an accident. If you do that, good luck and let us know how it goes.

tesla.mahedy | 05. desember 2013

For the uninitiated, what is the difference between the US and Euro style taillights?

TeslaMD | 05. desember 2013

Look at this YouTube video at the 3:33 minute mark to see the European rear blinker. It has a separate small amber square that flashes. The U.S. style blinker consists of the entire red rear light flashing.

TeslaMD | 05. desember 2013

Sorry, it's at the 1:26 minute mark.

zero2hide | 05. desember 2013

Why on earth did the Tesla engineers do this? Euro style rear turn signals are completely legal in the US so why manufacture two separate modules?

And, studies have shown cars are safer with the differentiation in yellow and red. Less confusion when approaching from the rear.

Miggy | 05. desember 2013

Wow, the amber indicators are so much safer I can not understand why Tesla would not be a trend setter in this safety feature. why they are at it, why not go metric only and get the USA in line with the rest of the world.

I.C.E.Stalker | 07. desember 2013

Anyone know what the differences between US spec and European spec equivalent Model S P85+? And, can those differences be retrofitted to US spec model? What about charging at 110kWh or 120 kWh?

lolachampcar | 07. desember 2013

I agree. Those are much better looking.

Boy am I glad I do not have that butt ugly rear license plate holder on my car.

Alex K | 07. desember 2013

@zero2hide | DECEMBER 5, 2013: Why on earth did the Tesla engineers do this? Euro style rear turn signals are completely legal in the US so why manufacture two separate modules?

The main reason Tesla is using red for the US turn signals has to do with the amount red light that is visible when the brakes are depressed. The US law specifies not only a lumen output, but also an areal amount (which does not include the third brake light). When the amber turn signals are added, the red brake area is not sufficient.

RedShift | 07. desember 2013

I love amber turn lights. I hate the us regulation that makes car companies do the entire thing in red.

Hate it.

TeslaMD | 07. desember 2013

An overwhelming number of cars on the road in the US have amber blinkers (some of them small squares) so the all red blinker mandate is a bogus theory. A quick Google search will actually show the NHTSA has been considering a mandate for Amber blinkers in the US for years after finding overseas studies showing amber lights are 5.3% more effective at preventing crashes than the red blinkers. Amber blinkers are mandated in Europe and may well be mandated in the US in the future. | 10. desember 2013

Alex K is dead on. The regulations were created before LED lighting existed, and the area required to allow amber lights is larger than the area available in the Tesla tailight design as used in Europe. To meet the US specs the brake light and turn-signal light must both blink at the same time, and for obvious reasons they must then be the same color. Amber is not allowed for brake lights!

Tesla might solve it in future cars with a larger area for the turn signal, but I doubt that they will change it for the existing Model S. There is almost no chance of the US regulations changing to match Europe either.

Haeze | 11. desember 2013

The majority of the regulations only apply to new vehicles. If I retrofit the Euro-tail lights, there will be no federal agency coming after me, or Tesla.

TeslaMD | 12. desember 2013

You would have zero issues with the amber blinkers on a Tesla in the US.

The idea that amber blinkers are not allowed in the US is ridiculous. The US has never mandated amber or red blinkers. An overwhelming majority of foreign model cars on the road in the US have amber blinkers at the rear with absolutely no “red” flashing blinker or flashing red brake light of any kind when the blinker is used. The idea that, “To meet the US specs the brake light and turn-signal light must both blink at the same time, and for obvious reasons they must then be the same color,” is flat out incorrect. The blinker is a separate bulb with a separate lens just as with the European Tesla model.

Just driving to and from work today I saw the following cars with all sizes of prominent amber rear blinkers:
Nissan Altima
Subaru Outback
Honda Odyssey
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Tundra
Honda Accord
Toyota Sequoia
And various Mercedes, VW, BMW & Acura models. Virtually all Kia and Hyundai cars have amber colored blinkers, not red. And a lot of these amber blinkers are tiny just like the European Tesla blinker.

In previous years the style was to use an amber colored lens cover for the blinker but the latest trend for carmakers is a clear blinker lens cover with a bright amber lightbulb behind it. Go to any dealership and you'll see that this is a fact. (Or just drive around and observe the cars around you.)

Motorweek just aired a show on the Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse and the Kia Forte. You can watch that episode online and see the Kia with its amber blinker in action at the 21:45 mark. You will not find any “red” blinkers on a Toyota new car lot either. They sell a ton of cars in America so it pretty much debunks any theory that amber blinkers are not allowed in the US. If the Feds ever do mandate a rear blinker color - it will most certainly be amber, and there are plenty of articles out there that back that up.

Captain_Zap | 13. desember 2013

My BMW had amber turn signals in the rear.
It took me a long time to figure out why no one was paying attention when I was going to merge while driving other cars.
I followed someone else that was driving my BMW one day and I saw the amber signals in action. They really got your attention compared to the signals on the other cars.

Sofie S. | 13. desember 2013

I think you have 2 reverse lights in your cars, that is realy good!

rmitchum | 15. desember 2013

Both of my "vintage" and American made vehicles (2000 GMC PU, and 2001 Olds Aurora) have amber rear turn signals. Far superior visibility IMHO, and (GASP) on GM products even!
Considering build simplicity and scale cost savings, why NOT consolidate the current MS tail-light designs to include the amber signals?

Haeze | 15. desember 2013

I thought at some point someone mentioned that the brake light needed to meet a certain surface area size, and brightness level for US regulations, and that removing the center ring of the tail light made it so the outer ring did not meet the area/brightness requirement. But, of course, this is third-hand information, so I have no idea. Either way, I just want to know if the retrofit will work or not. | 15. desember 2013

I reviewed the DOT (Department of Transportation) requirements and they are happy to let manufacturers have amber lights SO long as they meet various requirements, one being the surface area. The European amber light in the Model S does not meet this standard, so it has to be red (along with flashing the larger red brake light) to get enough surface area.

Here's the specific spec:

I doubt anyone from the DOT is going to be concerned about an individual car having a retrofit amber tail light that doesn't meet the specs. At the same time it wouldn't surprise me that legal concerns might prevent Tesla from selling the European amber tail light to someone in the USA.

Lastly, keep in mind it may also need a software flag/change to split the indicators to work like the European configuration. You don't want the larger red tail light to flash with the amber one. I'm not sure it can be done with a simple re-wiring.

TSLAholic | 15. desember 2013

With current LED technology, there is a way to fit both color LEDs next to each other inside the larger and smaller taillight parts to always act as one and yet produce different colors. When cruising with the taillights on, the red LEDs would be on at half power. Step on the brake or go into regen and red LEDs come on full power. Turn on the signal marker and the panel lights up amber on full power. There is no reason for the red LEDs to not remain lit at half power to avoid having a completely dark taillight between the amber flashes. And of course, red would remain on at full power during regen/braking even with the amber flashing. This would be one big mess if we were talking about incandescent bulbs, but LEDs are a whole different ball game.
I also noticed my Infiniti signal markers are red incandescent bulbs surrounded by LEDs when I drove behind my car once. I could not clearly see when the turn signal was switched on as the car began braking first. As a result of seeing this, I always turn on the signal marker first before applying the brakes if there is a car behind me.

2-Star | 15. desember 2013

What about some variant of the Philips HUE LED bulbs, which can be electronically controlled to produce "any" color? Any thoughts? | 15. desember 2013

I'm not a lighting engineer, and TSLAholic and TSLAholic offer clever solutions. I expect cost might become the issue as now you're doubling the number of LEDs (or using multi-color LEDs).

You'd also need a clear lens. This has the effect of requiring even brighter LEDs (more cost), as the red lens increases the on/off contrast during the day. The HUE LED bulbs are really neat, but are fairly dim relative to the required tail light brightness.

It will be interesting to see what happens on the Model X.

TSLAholic | 15. desember 2013

My take is that Model X will have the exact same configuration as Model S.

lolachampcar | 16. desember 2013

I can just see it now....

PI attorney- The reason my client rammed the back of your car is because you were using amber blinkers with insufficient red surface area. It is such a shame I think this way. It seems broken to me.

TeslaMD | 16. desember 2013

Way too much is being made of this "red surface area." C'mon guys, look around you as you drive. If you haven't seen a Chrysler PT Cruiser from the rear then Google it and find photos. The brake light is a tiny round circle (when lit) under the tiny round amber blinker (when lit). Far less red area then even the Euro Tesla when the brakes are used. The US rules are far less stringent than this thread has led some to believe.

AmpedRealtor | 16. desember 2013

I would prefer amber turn signals as well, they are simply more visible and safer.

Haeze | 16. desember 2013

So yeah, as much as this thread has turned into a discussion of US Laws, my question still remains on if the retrofit would work or not.

If anyone with a Euro-spec car removes their taillight assembly (either to paint/opticoat/wrap/whatever their car) I would REALLY appreciate some high resolution pictures of any wiring and/or electronics contained in, or behind the assembly, so I can compare it to the US version I have !

stewart.horner | 16. desember 2013

Interesting comments that the Euro Lights look better . From a Europeans POV. I think the US versions look much better. … The grass is always greener !

Haeze | 16. desember 2013

Trade ya ! Hehe

Miggy | 19. desember 2013

The USA needs to fall in line and catch up with the rest of world.
Amber is the only way to go.