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Global demand for energy saving electric motors

Media Release 15 May 2008

Big global demand for energy saving electric motors


New Zealand electronic motor company Wellington Drive is growing its manufacturing capabilities to meet global demand for its energy saving technology.

The radical technology in Wellington Drive’s units, which uses unique embedded software, results in the motors using about a third of the energy, and requiring significantly less steel and copper, than conventional motors.

Managing Director Ross Green says the rapidly changing market place, where cost conscious customers are chasing environmentally sustainable solutions, is opening new international opportunities for Wellington Drive.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology has recently approved investment of $1.75 million for the company to research advanced electronics suitable for use within industrial and commercial electric motors, together with special-purpose software for Wellington motor applications.

Although it is the energy saving performance of Wellington Drive motors that attracts most international interest, the reduced use of copper and steel is also important. For instance, a recent deal with Panasonic, one of the world’s leading manufacturers, will reduce the amount of steel Panasonic would normally require for conventional motors by approximately 20,000 tonnes a year.

“That’s a huge amount of material that Panasonic won’t need to purchase, transport and process every year so the monetary and environmental savings are significant,” says Dr Green.

Wellington Drive motors, which are made primarily of polymers and advanced ceramics, use only 20 per cent of the steel involved in conventional motors and 40 per cent less copper. Additional energy savings are achieved through simplified production processes which, Dr Green says, also result in reducing secondary production costs. Wellington Drive motors are used in a range of equipment such as supermarket refrigeration units, vending machines, filter fans for clean rooms in semiconductor fabrication plants, hospitals and the biotech sector and ventilation systems.

One US customer claims energy savings of more than $US100 million annually from energy saving initiatives that include Wellington motors and another is using up to 600 Wellington Drive motors a day as part of a construction programme involving the opening of 15 new supermarkets a week.

“Every Wellington Drive motor installed in supermarkets represents a reduction in annual carbon emissions of between 250 and 300 kilograms, making considerable savings over the 10 year life of each of our motors,” says Dr Green.

Dr Green says a 400,000 piece order from North America will save around 1.5PJ of energy each year when all the motors are in service. 1PJ is the energy in 25 million litres of oil, or the annual consumption of around 35,000 homes. (PJ = petajoule which equates to approximately 30 million kilowatt hours) Growth prospects for the company are good, with 400,000 representing only two per cent of the annual worldwide demand for motors of this category

“Introducing a new technology like ours that uses less electricity to do the same job as older, conventional motors has a big impact on the emission footprint, particularly in Northern Hemisphere countries that rely on coal and gas for energy supplies,” he says.


The Foundation has provided ongoing support for Wellington Drive to reach its global markets, initially providing $98,000 towards the company’s research and development programme. A further $300,000 investment through the Technology for Business Growth (TBG) programme was made to help Wellington Drive develop more advanced technology involving ceramic materials and neo (rare earth) magnets used in its motors.

Dr Green says the Foundation investment allowed the company to work more aggressively on its R&D programme and achieve a stronger market position earlier than would otherwise have been possible.

Foundation Business Manager Stephen Flint says Wellington Drive has already provided a significant return on investment and represents an R&D success story for New Zealand.

“The company shows how a clever idea can be commercialised and transformed into an international success through commitment to R&D, identifying a market niche and understanding customer needs.

“Developing technology that provides such enormous energy savings is a significant advantage that reflects favourably on New Zealand achievement,” he says.

Wellington Drive is growing rapidly. It has facilities in Auckland, Singapore, Italy, Turkey and the United States, a support office in the Netherlands and ships products to 18 countries. Its R&D function operates from New Zealand and while some manufacturing is carried out in Auckland, Singapore is becoming a key manufacturing centre where final development of specialised equipment needed to build the motors is carried out. Subcontracted manufacturing bases are in Asia, including three sites in China and a fourth being opened shortly.

“We need to manufacture close to customer facilities because of the increasing demand for three to four hour, just-in-time service, which could not be achieved from New Zealand.

“To be successful, it’s essential to be able to deliver quickly,” says Dr Green.


ENDS


About the Foundation: The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology invests over $460 million a year on behalf of the New Zealand Government, in research, science and technology. These investments are made to enhance the wealth and well being of New Zealanders.

The Foundation’s Technology for Business Growth programme supports the growth in capability within companies by partially funding technically challenging research and development projects to develop innovative new products, processes and services that grow an organisation.

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