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Home>DRIVES & MOTORS>Variable Speed Drives >Ecodesign Step 2: What you need to know

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Ecodesign Step 2: What you need to know

04 May 2023

ABB’s Rob Wood, Divisional Manager – Motors & Generators, takes a look at the upcoming changes to the Ecodesign regulations, and explains what they mean in practice for motor manufacturers, OEMs, and end users

SINCE 2009, the EU has been developing its Ecodesign Regulations, which are intended to set the efficiency requirements for energy-using products. In 2011, the regulations began to cover electric motors. Under Stage 1, implemented in 2011, all new ‘in-scope’ motors entering the EU market were required to be of at least IE2 efficiency. In 2015, Stage 2 came into effect, which required motors with a rated output of 7.5 to 375kW to be either IE3 compliant (direct-on-line), or IE2 compliant if fitted with a variable speed drive (VSD). In 2017, the regulations tightened further, extending the power range down to 0.75kW and removing the VSD driven caveat.

Whatever you think about Brexit, the UK is committed to adopting Ecodesign rules, with little sign of divergence any time soon. This means that any changes to Ecodesign apply to the UK market as well as across the EU. Even if there is divergence at some point in the future, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) has signalled that the legislation is likely to become more rather than less stringent in the UK.

New developments to the Ecodesign regulations are now on the way in the form of Regulation (EU) 2019/1781. July 1 2023 sees the second step of a two-step implementation come into effect. Step 1, which was implemented in 2021, stipulated that motors with a rated output of 0.75kW to 1000kW must be IE3 rated – it also removed the option of using an IE2 motor with a VSD. Under step 1, motors rated 0.12kW to 0.75kW must be IE2 compliant. Step 1 also introduced Minimum Efficiency Performance Standards (MEPS) specifically for VSDs for the first time, requiring all drives within the specified criteria rated from 0.12 to 1000kW to be at least IE2 compliant.

Step 2 is due to come into force from July 1, 2023. Motors rated from 75 kW to 200kW must now be IE4 compliant. For motors that fall outside of this range, the previous steps still apply, so for example a 0.12kW motor must be IE2, while a 1000kW motor must be IE3.

Step 2 changes: in depth

Step 1 widened Ecodesign’s scope significantly, covering three phase single-speed motors rated up to 1000 V, 50 Hz, 60 Hz, 50/60 Hz for direct on-line operation with continuous duty defined as S1, S3 ≥ 80% and S6 ≥ 80%. It also brought in for the first time motors with protection types Ex ec, Ex db, Ex db eb and Ex td, as well as brake motors with an external brake.

Step 2 can essentially be broken down into three sections:

IE2 efficiency class is now mandatory for the following motor types:

- 3-phase rated output from 0.12 kW and below 0.75kW

- Ex eb increased safety motors from 0.12 to 1000kW

- Single-phase motors from 0.12 to 1000kW

IE3 is now mandatory for:

-3-phase 2, 4, 6 or 8 pole, single speed motors with rated output from 0.75 kW up to 1000 kW EXCEPT 2, 4 or 6 pole motors with rated output from 75 kW up to 200 kW (Step 2 introduction July 1 2023)

- Protection types Ex ec, Ex db, Ex db eb, Ex td

- Brake motors with external brake

- TEAO (Totally Enclosed Air Over)

- Ambient temperatures between -30˚C and +60˚C

While IE4 will become mandatory for:

- 3-phase 2, 4 and 6 pole, single speed motors with rated output from 75 kW up to 200 kW. Excluded from this are brake motors, Ex eb increased safety motors, or other explosion-protected motors (Ex ec, Ex db, Ex db eb, Ex td).

Ecodesign labelling

A big part of Ecodesign is labelling, in the sense that products covered by the legislation cannot be mislabelled with an incorrect efficiency rating. This is the enforceable part of Ecodesign, and as such the only serious implications are for manufacturers, and/or whomever labelled the device. Motors and drives covered by the regulation must meet the efficiency requirements in order to carry a CE mark, which signifies that a product is deemed to meet EU safety, health and environmental standards – which in this case are those defined by Ecodesign.

If a motor or drive covered by the regulation does not fulfil the efficiency requirements, it shall not be labelled with the CE mark and consequently shall not be placed on the European market. Such a motor or drive (without the CE mark) can be delivered outside Europe, provided that it meets local requirements in the target market.

Direction of travel

It is almost beyond doubt that the regulations will continue to tighten in the future, particularly as Net Zero and sustainability grow increasingly important. New motor designs will also help to shift the dial. Back in 2011 when the very first stage of Ecodesign came into effect, IE5 efficiency levels were considered purely hypothetical. Motor design has come a long way since then, with ABB’s IE5 SynRM now delivering efficiency levels that were simply not possible in a commercially available motor a decade ago.

While motor technology will continue to evolve, with water-cooled, Permanent Magnet and SynRM designs showing some promise for reaching even higher efficiency levels, IE5 is close to the theoretical maximum, and so logically there must come a point where there is nowhere else to go in terms of efficiency. Indeed, it’s unlikely that we’ll ever see a standard induction motor design that can get above IE5.

Why wait?

Ecodesign rules apply only to new motors, rather than motors already on the market, and so for end users there is no action that they need to take, other than to request that any new motor purchased should be Ecodesign-compliant as a minimum. However, the intention of the regulation is fundamentally to improve energy efficiency and reduce carbon emissions. With energy prices continuing to spiral, there’s never been a better time to invest in higher efficiency motors.

While it’s true that upgrading motors requires some upfront investment, this will be recouped many times over through the energy savings achieved over the lifetime of the asset. Higher energy prices also has the effect of significantly reducing payback times, reducing payback periods from years to a matter of months, with the motor continuing to save money for every moment it is in operation over the remainder of its lifetime. When the average motor lifetime is around 20-25 years, why wait until the regulations force you to upgrade, when you could be saving vast amounts of both energy and money right now, while also significantly reducing your carbon footprint.

Rob Wood is divisional manager – motors and generators at ABB

For more information about the Ecodesign regulations for low voltage motors, visit:


Key Points

  • The UK is committed to adopting Ecodesign rules; any changes to Ecodesign apply to the UK market as well as across the EU
  • Motors and drives covered by the regulation must meet the efficiency requirements in order to carry a CE mark
  • Upgrading motors requires upfront investment, but this will be recouped many times over through lifetime energy savings