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China’s rare-earth stranglehold spurs rise in alternative motor technologies

19 March, 2013

For example, ABB’s synchronous reluctance motors and Nidec’s switched reluctance motors achieve IE4 levels of efficiency without using magnets, and offer viable, lower-cost alternatives to the traditional neodymium-based PM machines. Although reluctance technologies have been around for many years, they are attracting renewed interest because of their high efficiencies.

“When discussing the industrial IE4 motor market in the past, the landscape was mostly limited to neodymium-based PM motors, or motors with copper rotors,” Meza continues. “Now, several proprietary designs that use traditional ferrite magnet technology must be included in the discussion as well.”

For example, US-based NovaTorque has developed an electrically commutated PM IE4 motor that uses traditional ferrite magnets, while Hitachi Metals is developing an axial-flux motor using amorphous metal ribbons made of iron, silicon and boron, coupled with traditional ferrite magnet technology, to achieve an IE4 level of efficiency.

“There are always application-specific pros and cons when considering the most appropriate motor technology to use,” Meza remarks. “But in an energy-conscious world, having more alternatives, and at lower cost, will only help the industry.”

Most current IE4-class motors are limited to 1–5hp (0.74–3.7kW) power ratings. However, as industry acceptance increases with more affordable manufacturing cost structures, IHS expects higher power-rated IE4 motors to gain more traction in the marketplace.

IHS’s new report, The World Market for Low Voltage Motors – 2013 Edition, will focus on how, and to what degree, government-mandated motor efficiency regulations are affecting motor-efficiency transitions. It will also provide analyses of regional motor market growth, as well as covering applications. 

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