An electric motor is usually defined as a device that converts electric energy into mechanical energy in the form of a rotation (torque and speed).

There are about 8 billion electric motors in use in the EU, consuming nearly 50% of the electricity  EU produces.

The sector is very heterogeneous, with a considerable variety of technologies, applications and sizes, ranging from tiny motors, such as those driving cooling fans in computers, to huge motors in heavy industries.

Ecodesign requirements

Rules on ecodesign for electric motors are mandatory for all manufacturers and suppliers wishing to sell their products in the EU. 

The current Regulation on ecodesign for electric motors (EC) No 640/2009 covers single speed, three-phase 50Hz or 50/60Hz, induction motors with the following characteristics

  • 2 to 6 poles
  • rated output between 0.75kW and 375kW
  • rated voltage up to 1000V
  • rated on the basis of continuous duty operation

The energy efficiency of an electric motor is calculated as the ratio of the mechanical output power to the electrical input power. The energy efficiency level is expressed in International Energy efficiency classes (IE), IE1 being the lower class and IE4 the highest. Under the current regulation, motors must reach the IE3 efficiency level, or meet the IE2 and be equipped with a variable speed drive, an electric device that adjusts the speed of the motor.

Some motors designed for specific conditions are excluded from these rules, for example those that are immersed in a liquid like in sewage systems. 

New ecodesign requirements from July 2021

From July 2021, the current regulation will be repealed and replaced by Regulation on electric motors and variable speed drivers (EU) 2019/1781. Under the new rules, several induction motors that were previously not covered will be regulated, including

  • smaller motors between 120W and 750W
  • larger motors between 375kW and 1000kW
  • 60Hz motors, 8 poles motors and single phase motors (the latter only as of July 2023)

The level of requirement will moreover increase, as three-phase motors with a rated output between 0.75kW and equal to or below 1000kW must reach the IE3 level by July 2021. Motors between 75kW and 200kW must meet the IE4 level as of July 2023.

The regulation will also regulate the efficiency of variable speed drives and both product groups will be subject to information requirements such as efficiency at different load points, in terms of speed and torque. This will help engineers to optimise the efficiency of entire systems.

As in the previous regulation, some motors designed for specific conditions are excluded or benefit from more favourable conditions.

Please note that Regulation (EU) 2019/1781 undergoes an amendment procedure. The draft ecodesign amendment has been voted positively by Member States.

Energy savings

A more efficient motor can generate savings ranging from a few euros to several tens of thousands euros over its lifetime, depending on its power and use pattern.

More efficient motors under the current regulation will bring 57TWh of annual energy savings in the EU by 2020. Taking into account the overall effect of the revised regulation, the annual savings will increase to 110TWh by 2030, which is equivalent to electricity consumption of the Netherlands. This means that 40 million tonnes of CO2 emissions will be avoided each year and that the annual energy bill of EU households and industry will be reduced by approximately €20 billion by 2030.