News center
Masterful execution of their duties.

Energy efficiency with ecodesign

Sep 04, 2023

The second phase of the EU’s Ecodesign Regulation raises the bar for electric motor energy efficiency – and the rest of the world is sure to follow.

Energy efficiency has a critical role to play in achieving Net Zero. While some of the technologies on the roadmap to decarbonisation – such as green hydrogen and carbon capture – are not yet ready, energy-efficient equipment is available today. For this reason, the International Energy Agency (IEA) calls efficiency “the first fuel – the fuel you do not have to use.”

Electric motors are a logical place to focus energy efficiency efforts. They are essential in almost every industry, and collectively they consume more than 45% of all electricity generated globally. In part, this is because many motors in use today are older, less energy efficient models.

To ensure that facilities install modern, energy-efficient motors, the European Union (EU) has published the Ecodesign Regulation. This legislation establishes minimum energy efficiency standards for new installations and upgrades of existing motors with the goal of improving “EU products’ circularity, energy performance and other environmental sustainability aspects.” Here is what engineers need to know about it.

The EU uses International Efficiency (IE) standards to describe motor efficiency, where each increase in number reflects approximately 20% lower losses than the previous. The Ecodesign Regulation is being applied in two phases. The first phase came into effect in July 2021. It requires motors rated below 0.75kW to achieve IE2 efficiency, and motors above 0.75kW to achieve IE3 efficiency. This requirement includes brake motors with external brakes and motors designed for potentially explosive atmospheres.

Phase one has been a success, and phase two will come into effect from July 1, 2023. This phase builds upon the requirements established in phase one. Under phase two, IE4 becomes the minimum efficiency class for 3-phase 1-, 4- and 6-pole single-speed safe area motors rated between 75 and 200kW. Phase two also requires motors with “Ex be” protection, as well as single-phase motors with a rated output of over 0.12kW, to achieve IE2 efficiency as a minimum. However, phase two excludes brake motors.

These changes, applied at scale, will have a huge impact by 2023, the Ecodesign Regulation is predicted to produce annual power savings of 110TWh – equivalent to the total energy use of the Netherlands.

The Ecodesign Regulation’s new minimum standards are welcome and will play a significant role in decarbonising European industry. For businesses looking to achieve even greater energy efficiency, there is potential to go further. The latest generation of motor-drive packages use synchronous reluctance (SynRM) technology to achieve IE5 efficiency. Businesses may be interested in upgrading to the most efficient motors to minimise emissions or due to the compelling financial case for efficiency.

The initial cost of a motor accounts for just 2% of its total cost of ownership (TCO). Around 1% goes toward lifetime maintenance, and the remaining 97% is spent on electricity. Compared to a less efficient motor operating continuously at maximum speed, a SynRM motor and drive package can reduce energy costs by up to 60%. Therefore, motor efficiency has a significant impact on a motor’s TCO, especially when energy prices are high.

For example, when Australian food manufacturer Campbell’s switched four motors used in refrigeration compressors to 55kW IE5 SynRM models, it achieved major savings. The motors eliminate over 130 tons of CO2 emissions. The new motors also save the manufacturer $9,750 in energy costs every year.

While the EU is the first region to apply IE4 efficiency requirements, it is widely expected that other regions will follow. It is also likely that legislation will continue to demand even higher energy efficiency in industries – driven by net zero ambitions and enabled by continued advances in technology.

The Ecodesign Regulation sets clear, reasonable standards for industrial motors, and that’s good news for everyone: facilities save money and more efficient equipment brings society closer to Net Zero.

Daniel Eberli is at ABB’s IEC LV Motors Division

The second phase of the EU’s Ecodesign Regulation raises the bar for electric motor energy efficiency – and the rest of the world is sure to follow.Ecodesign RegulationABB’s IEC LV Motors Division