Component Efficiency and the Ecodesign Directive

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

The right direction but…

The Ecodesign Directive* is the European legislative basis for establishing energy-saving measures, and is definitely a step in the right direction. It enables a huge potential for reduction of energy consumption, ensuring efficient design and transparency of energy-relevant products.

At the same time, it makes an important contribution to global competitiveness and future sustainability for the European industrial community.

However, for a number of reasons I do not regard the way this directive is practiced within the field of motors and drives as totally optimal.

Focus is high on the efficiency improvement of individual components. Still, the huge potential savings for system optimization, using modern drives with speed control and special energy-saving features, go unnoticed.
Instead of an IE3 motor, in certain cases, it’s advantageous to use an IE2 motor with variable speed drive. This small but important alternative encourages use of variable speed drives for cases where it makes good sense. However there is unfortunately no plan to encourage the use of this alternative, should the IE3 class become the minimum efficiency standard for motors.
Machine builders will have to pay more attention to the overall efficiency of their systems and equipment. On the other hand, for their own survival, they have to carefully maintain the technological edge in the global market while remaining competitive in cost and effort. A regulation must therefore always ensure that the expense and effort required are in equilibrium with the commercial benefits.

Standardization enables freedom

The total efficiency of a self-contained system within a specified field of usage, such as a fridge or coffee machine, can be determined relatively easy. It is considerably more complex to define and specify an efficiency index for a sum of components. And even more complex when the components can be combined freely from various manufacturers to form flexible systems, intended to be used in a diversity of situations and applications.

To meet Ecodesign ambitions for determining efficiency indexing in applications involving a range of various components, several international standardization groups are working to develop the necessary basis for valuation and calculation.

We can already see that for manufacturers of motors and frequency converters, an increased effort is required because these products will be measured and specified with a series of defined load points.

For us, it is important that the new standard is really useful to the design engineer. All the necessary data will be available, helping him to put together the most efficient solution possible, using optimal components which fit together best.

Our ambition is to provide maximum flexibility and freedom in his choice of components.

To be able to freely combine individual components, like frequency converters and motors from different manufacturers, it is important that the design engineer gets the quality data he needs. So it’s good to know that we at VLT Drives are doing the legwork and ensuring that these data will be readily available. Along with the data we also provide in-depth application know-how and advice.

Freedom to combine single components!

Some people will claim that providing all necessary components from a single source, with one guaranteed final efficiency figure, will lead to the lowest system energy consumption. It may even feel most convenient just to buy the claim.

It’s true that the biggest impact (typically 20-50% energy saving) is achieved by optimization of the processes within the application. No one knows this better than the machine builder or system integrator himself – it’s his core competence.

But what about the scenario where users could potentially achieve greater energy savings via combining various, maybe new technologies, but are trapped in the “wrong” eco-regulation? That would not give the desired result.

Therefore I strongly believe it is advantageous to continue to maintain independence and access to the most efficient products for design engineers and plant operators. Naturally, the degree of component influence is highly dependent on the particular application, and the type and number of energy-related components.

As far as influence with the EU Commission goes, we take this seriously at Danfoss. On the component supplier level, we have the drive systems and application knowledge and experience needed. Using these we formulate particular concerns about technical feasibility and contribute actively in an advisory role in the working groups. Ultimately of course, the European Commission has the final word and is responsible for the final decision and regulation.

These are my thoughts about the Ecodesign Directive. I’d like to hear yours.

Article by: Ole Møller-Jensen

*The Ecodesign Directive, which will apply from 2015, provides a coherent and integrated framework which allows setting mandatory ecodesign requirements for some products. See more at