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Ecodesign regs: What do they mean for VSDs?

15 June, 2021

The first EU regulations covering the efficiency of VSDs come into force next month. Liam Blackshaw, ABB’s product manager for LV drives, examines the implications.

Updated Ecodesign regulations governing the required efficiency of new electric motors come into force from July. Significantly, the 2021 update will expand the regulations’ remit to include, for the first time, variable-speed drives (VSDs).

Specifically, the regulation covers three-phase standard drives with a diode rectifier and a rated power output (Pn) of 0.12kW–1MW. After 1 July, the power losses of these drives must not exceed the maximum power losses corresponding to the new IE2 efficiency level for drives – not to be confused with the equivalent IE2 rating for motors. Now, drives manufacturers must declare power losses in terms of percentage of rated power output at eight different operating points, as well as standby losses.

There are certain exclusions from the regulations. Regenerative and low-harmonic drives where THD is less than 10% are not covered, along with multiple AC-output drives and singe-phase drives. Also excluded are situations where the drive forms part of a cabinet and the drive module itself has already been assessed. Likewise, DC drives, medium-voltage drives, integrated drives, and traction drives are not covered.

Servodrives are included, but there is a caveat – drives in this class which can also be used with induction motors do fall within the scope, however servodrives designed purely for use with servomotors are exempt.

Finally, Ecodesign does not include minimum efficiency requirements for Power Drive Systems.

The Ecodesign regulations forms part of the CE marking process which, from January 2022, will become UKCA marking in post-Brexit Britain. Primarily, however, the regulations cover induction motors rated for continuous duty so, while there are clearly intricacies to be learned, essentially if a motor is rated for direct-on-line operation then it is within the scope of the Ecodesign.

The benefits are clear. There are around eight billion electric motors in use around the EU which use almost half of all electricity generated in the region. Most of these active motors have no form of speed control. This, when viewed within the context of ambitious targets for cutting emissions and reducing energy consumption and carbon generation, mean high-efficiency motors and drives have a key role to play.

What’s perhaps more interesting is the ways in which technology firms are using the Ecodesign regulations to move two or three steps ahead of the curve. The technology is already there to exceed the current baseline. IE4 and IE5 motors are increasingly available, which stands organisations in good stead for the next round of upgrades to the Directive in 2023. Factor in the superior performance and reduced maintenance of modern, high-efficiency motors and drives and it’s hard to argue against the Ecodesign regulations being viewed in anything other than a positive light.

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