Don’t be bitten by IE3 motor regulations

2015-02-03 - Just because there are no obvious penalties for non-compliance, don’t assume there are no consequences for not meeting the IE3 deadline.

A lack of legislative bite could be encouraging OEMs to leave the switch to IE3 motors to the very last minute.

“There is no government body enforcing the change on end users,” says ABB’s UK Sales Manager for LV Motors Rob Wood. “As such, manufacturers are in the position of policing the change themselves and while there is a pull from some sections of end-users, OEMs are still dragging their feet.”

With less than one month to go until the deadline of 1 January 2015, the situation has echoes of 2010. At that time, all parties were being urged to heed the impending deadline of 2011, when IE1 motors would be banned from the European market. Despite recent reports, Wood doubts that IE1 motors still form a significant percentage of motor business: “Back when IE2 became the minimum in Europe, there were still some IE1 motors on the shelves, stock that had to be used up, so some did still creep in after the deadline. Now most manufacturers have stopped placing them on the market and there is no IE1 business left.”

From 2015, the minimum energy performance standard will be stepped up to IE3 (or IE2 under VSD control) for motors rated from 7.5–375 kW. Two years later this will be extended down to 750 W.

There is a push among users for IE3, though current sales remain low and they still form a relatively small percentage of motor sales. Manufacturers are meeting this demand by continuing to develop more energy efficient motors. Demand is particularly high from large utilities like water companies. These use a significant proportion of the country’s electricity production and are keen to use any means to keep bills down.

As the message gets through, end users will increasingly see the robust business case for the move towards IE3. The Carbon Trust estimates that when working near full load, a typical 11 kW IE3 motor will be around 1.6 percent more efficient than an IE2 equivalent. Although it might cost up to £200 more to buy, running an IE3 motor continuously would save around 1,300 kWh a year against the same IE2 variant. At current electricity prices, this gives a saving of £100 each year, with a pay back in 24 months.

Some manufacturers are pushing the boundaries still further. The magnet-free IE4 synchronous reluctance (SynRM) motor technology launched by ABB in 2011, is a motor that is robust, has no windings and practically no operating losses. A recent development of this technology has led to it even meeting IE5, way ahead of when the standard might be expected to become mandatory.

“OEMs are certainly slower to adopt IE3 than they were to adopt IE2 the last time round,” says Wood.

"Although the shift to IE3 entails a cost premium for OEMs, they need to consider the longer term consequences of their delay. OEMs are currently bidding for contracts for the supply of systems and machines based on the use of IE2 motors. With the deadline rapidly approaching, this could have implications s for the supply chain and mean some rapid re-negotiation of contracts, something that may not sit well with customers.

“Distributors will also need to consider their stock levels and ensure they have enough to meet demand.” This demand for IE3 motors could see dramatic rises in the next few months as the deadline approaches.

“Another issue is the energy efficient technology list,” says Wood. “As the goal posts change and IE3 products become mandatory, what is the government to do about Enhanced Capital Allowances? They are hardly likely to offer ECAs for merely meeting the minimum requirement and will more than likely restrict ECAs to IE4 motors.”

ABB’s SynRM motor offers IE4 efficiency by using a rotor with no windings and practically no losses. The rotor runs cooler than a conventional rotor, offering improved reliability. Delivered as a package with a frequency converter and dedicated software, two configurations are available, one maximizing energy efficiency, the other maximizing power output. It also offers a smaller footprint than other motors of the same rating and can be matched with a variable speed drive to give additional savings.

Motor manufacturers are well placed to help OEMs with things like technical advice and savings calculations to help them sell to their customers and are also an ideal source of information for end users looking to ask questions and review their motor management policies.

“We don’t know what penalties will be introduced for not meeting the regulations, but the more immediate danger for everyone concerned is that of the softer issues, such as what non-compliance could do to their reputation. The bottom line is that six months is not a long time and anyone who has not yet considered the issues needs to make sure they are ready.”

Rob Wood, Local Business UK Sales Manager LV Motors, ABB Limited
Tel: 01925 741 111; Email:; Web:

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    EU MEPS timeline showing the development of the IE standard for electric motors.
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