An electric motor is usually defined as a device that converts electric energy into mechanical energy in the form of a rotation (torque and speed). A variable speed drive is an electronic device that can be used to adjust the rotation speed of an electric motor according to the needs of the application.
There are about 8 billion electric motors in use in the EU, consuming nearly 50% of the electricity EU produces.
The sector is very heterogeneous, with a considerable variety of technologies, applications and sizes, ranging from tiny motors, such as those driving cooling fans in computers, to huge motors in heavy industries.
Rules on ecodesign for electric motors and variable speed drives are mandatory for all manufacturers and suppliers wishing to sell their products in the EU.
The Regulation on electric motors and variable speed drives (EU) 2019/1781 enters into application as of 1 July 2021, replacing the Regulation on ecodesign for electric motors (EC) No 640/2009.
The new regulation has a broader scope and covers single speed, 50Hz, 60 Hz or 50/60Hz, induction motors
- with 2 to 8 poles
- with single phase or three-phase
- rated output between 0.12kW and 1000kW
- rated voltage from 50V to 1000V
- rated on the basis of continuous duty operation and direct on-line operation
The energy efficiency of an electric motor is calculated as the ratio of the mechanical output power to the electrical input power. The energy efficiency level is expressed in International Energy efficiency classes (IE), IE1 being the lower class and IE5 the highest. Under the current regulation, motors must reach the IE2, IE3 or IE4 efficiency level depending on their rated power and other characteristics. For instance, three-phase motors with a rated output between 0.75kW and equal to or below 1000kW must reach the IE3 level by July 2021. Motors between 75kW and 200kW must meet the IE4 level as of July 2023. The EU is the first place worldwide making the IE4 level mandatory for some categories of motors.
Some motors designed for specific conditions are excluded from these rules, for example those that are immersed in a liquid such as in sewage systems.
The regulation also sets requirements the efficiency of variable speed drives. Variable speed drives have 2 levels of efficiency (IE1 and IE2) and the regulation requires all drives in scope to reach the IE2 level.
Both motors and drives are subject to information requirements, such as efficiency at different load points, in terms of speed and torque. This will help engineers to optimise the efficiency of entire systems.
A more efficient motor can generate savings ranging from a few euros to several tens of thousands euros over its lifetime, depending on its power and use pattern.
More efficient motors under the former regulation were expected to bring 57 TWh of annual energy savings in the EU by 2020. Taking into account the overall effect of the revised regulation, the annual savings will increase to 110 TWh by 2030, which is equivalent to the electricity consumption of the Netherlands. This means that 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions per year will be avoided and that the annual energy bill of EU households and industry will be reduced by approximately €20 billion by 2030.
Besides, increased usage of variable speed drives in relevant applications, such as a pump delivering a water flow that changes with time, can generate considerable savings at the application level. This is encouraged by the regulation by requiring manufacturers of both motors and drives to provide relevant energy efficiency data at different speed/torque points.
Electric motors represent around 50% of the global electricity consumption. Promoting market uptake of efficient motors and drives is an important contribution to the fight against climate change. The EU supports the Super-Efficient Equipment and Appliances Deployment (SEAD) Initiative bringing together countries across the world to cooperate in promoting efficient appliances. SEAD currently focuses particularly on electric motors, refrigeration, cooling and lighting and has set a goal of doubling the efficiency of these products sold globally by 2030, an ambition recently welcomed by G7 ministers. The new EU regulatory requirements entering into effect on 1 July contributes to this goal. The EU is also a member of the International Energy Agency 4E Electric Motors Systems Annex, which aims at raising worldwide awareness of the efficiency potential of motor systems and provides guidance and tools to exploit the energy performance of new and existing motor systems worldwide.