While more and more cars are being powered by electricity, all cars rely on electricity as the energy source for their drive systems. In fact, electric motor drive systems account for the largest energy consumption in the U.S. and worldwide in appliances, manufacturing processes, and many other applications. They are flexible and reliable, making them incredibly popular for industrial and commercial uses.
But there is an economic and environmental cost to the ubiquity of these systems. Most electrical energy is generated from fossil fuels, which are costly and non-renewable. Technologies that support reductions in fossil fuel use are advantageous and can support minimizing environmental impacts.
University of Connecticut associate professor of electrical and computer engineering Ali Bazzi, Ph.D. and two of his former graduate students, Yiqi Liu, Ph.D. and Artur Ulatowski, have been granted a patent for a new method to model power loss in electric motor drive systems that could be used to greatly increase their efficiency.
A modern motor drive system is composed of three parts – a motor, a power electronic drive, and a controller. The motor is the electro-mechanical energy conversion device that rotates to move mechanical loads. The drive and controller control the amount of electrical energy given to the motor to determine its speed or torque, and power.
Current models depend on physics-based equations, which focus on the electro-mechanical energy conversion that drives these systems. However, these types of mathematical models fail to account for all of the other electrical, thermal, magnetic, and mechanical interactions within the motor drive. Thus, these models often ignore or assume certain energy losses or other phenomena which can impact accuracy.
In contrast, Bazzi’s model is fully comprehensive, as it takes all these factors into account, and provides a much more accurate picture of energy consumption.
By providing a more accurate measurement of how much energy these systems are using, Bazzi’s method paves the way for the development of more efficient systems which utilize electric motor drives. His model will enable the creation of systems that can operate with the maximum efficiency in any operating setting.
One of the most innovative features of Bazzi’s model is the ability to incorporate data that companies regularly collect from their electric motor drive systems. With this data, companies can use software, online (real-time) or offline, to determine the optimal operating parameters for a particular system within its unique operating environment.
Because motor drive systems are so widely used, optimization efforts have the potential for tremendous cost savings worldwide and could possibly decrease environmental burden by reducing electrical energy usage, says Bazzi.
“Even small improvements in the operating efficiency of the electric motor drive system would result in billions of dollars in annual energy savings worldwide and decrease the demand for fossil fuels to generate electricity,” Bazzi says.
Bazzi received his Ph.D. electrical and computer engineering from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. He earned both his bachelor’s and master’s from the American University of Beirut. His research interests include electric motor drives and electro-mechanics, distributed generation with focus on solar photovoltaics and real-time control and optimization of energy systems.