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Southern Manufacturing & Electronics

Farnborough, Hants(GU14 6XL)

11/02/2020 - 13/02/2020

Southern Manufacturing and Electronics is the most comprehensive annual industrial exhibition in the (more)

Motor efficiency upgrades: is it win-win or win-lose

Motor efficiency upgrades: is it win-win or win-lose
Are you ready for the mandatory switch to IE2 motors in June? Evidence suggests up to 30% of OEMs may not be. And Robin Cowley of Baldor argues that it might even be prudent to look closely at IE3 motors in order to fend off competition from machine builders in the US.

A seminal piece of legislation mandating minimum electric motor efficiency levels is scheduled to come into force across the EU in June 2011. It has enormous implications for machinery OEMs, with potentially serious consequences to sales and market share if attention is not paid immediately, says Baldor. The situation is made even more problematic by the USA's EISA minimum efficiency regulations, which came into force in December 2010. 

From feedback at exhibitions and from calls and visits Baldor believes that as much as a third of the EU's OEMs are still either wholly or partially unaware that new general-purpose AC motors installed from June must meet a minimum efficiency of IE2. IE2 is equivalent to the previous CEMEP 'EFF1' standard. 

Remember that the purchase cost is only a tiny proportion of the life-cycle cost of a motor. The running costs are far more significant - in a single year the cost of energy can be up to 10 times the purchase cost, and the lifespan of the motor could be 15 years or more. So there is good reason to make the transition to higher efficiency motors.

For OEMs currently using lower-efficiency EFF3 or EFF2 grade AC motors on their machines, transitioning equipment designs to higher efficiency motors is no trivial matter. It can involve physical and mechanical interface changes, changes to rotational speeds, and changes to thermal issues and starting behaviour. These issues can have a big impact on equipment designs, and a fair amount of re-engineering may need to be done. That could take weeks or even months, and June will soon be upon us. "We're sending an SOS message to European OEMs that if they do not start considering the impact of motor efficiency regulations immediately, then there could be negative implications for their sales and market share," says Robin Cowley, Industrial Marketing Manager for Baldor in the EU. "And when OEMs think about the upgrade to IE2 efficiency levels, we are also suggesting that they consider their strategy for the IE3 efficiency level that's coming down the track because if they don't, their competitors might - and steal a march."

While IE2 regulations come into force in June this year, the IE3 standard doesn't become mandatory until 2015. For many, it will be tempting to largely ignore more expensive IE3 motors until then, particularly with cost pressures being such a major issue right now. But at the same time there is no doubt that automation end users are becoming increasingly worried about their energy costs. Many are also currently putting strong environmental care plans into place. 

Given this market situation, Cowley thinks that OEMs who start to offer the best efficiency levels available - IE3 - could see their market share grow at the expense of those who merely offer the minimum required. The situation is complicated by the USA's recent Energy Independence Security Act (EISA) which comes into force in December 2010. EISA mandates a minimum efficiency level of 'NEMA Premium' for motors imported into the USA equivalent to IE3. Cowley expects that some USA OEMs could be adopting NEMA Premium as their standard offering for international sales as well. This means that much imported equipment could offer end users a significantly faster payback in terms of reduced energy consumption than equipment sourced from the EU. 

"For some simple items of equipment such as pumps or fans, the motor is a significant proportion of the bill of materials and US competitors might offer a lower-spec IE2 alternative in the EU," says Cowley. "However, where a motor is only a small proportion of some larger equipment, US competitors have the opportunity to offer premium efficiency as standard." They may do this without a cost premium, or at a small premium but with energy savings that give payback period that will quickly negate any upfront savings from going with an IE2 motor, and then carry on delivering energy savings: "This potentially puts them in a position to gain market share here in Europe," he adds. A lack of preparation, then, for the IE2 motor legislation and an unwillingness to look at IE3 motors until absolutely necessary could have serious consequences.
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