TURIN – Audi made news in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, exhibiting a Sport Quattro Concept with laser headlamps, claiming it would be the first brand to offer a car with the advanced lighting technology.

However, German rival BMW says it will beat Audi to the punch.

First presented at the 2011 Frankfurt auto show, BMW’s i8 plug-in hybrid is set to go on sale, and high-tech laser lights will be part of the package before the end of the year.

The car’s standard, low-beam headlamps consist of more conventional high-intensity, energy-efficient LEDs. But beginning later in the year, buyers will be able to order headlamps with optional laser-based high-beams.

Those lamps will come with their own distinctive design that incorporates a U-shaped frame housing the running lights and turn indicators, plus a second frame surrounding the laser lights, giving the lamps a 3-dimensional appearance.

The illumination range of the laser high beam reaches up to 1,970 ft. (600 m), double that of the LED headlamps, BMW says.

The laser lights also lower power requirements and fit into the vehicle more efficiently.

“Laser diodes are 10 times smaller than conventional light diodes,” BMW says. “They help to save not only available installation space inside the headlamp, but also weight. The size of the reflector surface can be reduced by a factor of up to 10 vs. LED lights.”