Alex Lynn on the track

Design Insights: Electric Racing on the Track, On Track to Improve Electric Use and Energy Savings are Everywhere

March 4, 2021
A review of the day’s top trends and news from Machine Design editors.

Design Insights is a new daily column recapping some of the trends and highlights from Machine Design editors.

Getting Machine Design’s Motor Running

The ABB FIA Formula E racing season began with two races in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia last week. As its name might imply, Formula E is similar to Formula 1 racing or Indy Car racing in most ways, but significantly different in another: The cars are fueled only with electric systems.

This is the first year of full world championship recognition for Formula E, and one of the reasons you’re reading about it now is that Machine Design is one of the partners of the Mahindra racing team. Drivers Alexander Sims and Alex Lynn are the two drivers for Mahindra this season, and we’ll be following their progress throughout the season.

As team officials note, competitive electric car racing has an additional outcome than just a race to a checkered flag. “It’s also a proving ground and platform with a higher purpose—to test new technologies, drive development to the production line and put more electric cars on the road,” Mahindra Racing officials noted in a press release. “Using the spectacle of sport, the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship is sending a powerful and meaningful message to help alter perceptions and speed-up the switch to electric.”

An upcoming Machine Design webinar, sponsored by TE Connectivity, will talk a little more about the issue of electric vehicles and connectivity.

Other Electric Motors in Focus

Not all electric motors are surrounded by facing racing cars. The bulk of electric motors toil in relative obscurity, but they can consume a lot of energy in the process.

ABB released a white paper this week that concluded if industries switched to more high-efficiency motors and drives, global electricity consumption could be reduced by up to 10%. If thinking globally is too large a concept, start at it another way: How much would a 10% reduction in your plant’s energy bill amount to each year?

Most people view energy is a cost center, much the same way they view safety. I’ve always seen energy as a profit center: If the efficient use of energy creates the same volume of product as its inefficient use, the difference is cost savings with no reduction in product quality or speed to market.

“The importance of transitioning industries and infrastructure to these highly energy efficient drives and motors to play their part in a more sustainable society cannot be overstated,” said  Morten Wierod, president of ABB Motion, in a press release. “With 45% of the world’s electricity used to power electric motors in buildings and industrial applications, investment in upgrading them will yield outsized rewards in terms of efficiency.”

Energy Savings are Everywhere

The concept of energy management isn’t new, but often gets overlooked in the continuous improvement discussion. Like any improvement plan, energy management takes diligence and the willingness to look for such improvements in atypical places.

A recent Machine Design article looked at energy savings in pneumatic systems, and one of the keys is to design efficiency into the system from the start. Once in place, the system needs continuous monitoring and review to make sure it continues to perform to its original design standards.

For existing systems, the article notes a number of free tools available online that can help identify energy waste and point to system improvements that will deliver cost savings.

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