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‘Most efficient’ motor maker aims to end energy waste

24 July, 2020

A Californian company which claims to have developed “the world's most efficient and intelligent electric motor system”, has renamed itself as part of its aim to eliminate the 25% of global electricity consumption that is wasted by legacy motors, thus accelerating the world’s transition from fossil fuels.

Previously known as the Software Motor Company (SMC), the Sunnyvale-based business will now be called Turntide Technologies. Its Smart Motor System is based on a switched reluctance technology that is controlled precisely by sensors and software designed to use a minimum of energy to deliver the precise amount of power that is needed. The motors are managed using cloud software and are connected to precise controls via the IoT.

Turntide says that its motors have been certified as being the world's most efficient by the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab.

Since the company was founded in 2014, it has raised more $70m of funding, most recently through a $25m financing round earlier this year that included an investment by BMW’s i Ventures business. Turntide is using the money to accelerate development of its HVAC retrofit motors, and to market a building operating platform designed to optimise energy and maintenance through intelligent automation.

To date, Turntide has focused mainly on HVAC applications, because building operations are responsible for 40% of global CO2 emissions. Its Smart Motor System is already being used by dozens of retailers, restaurants, and commercial and industrial facilities, whose HVAC motor retrofits are said to be achieving average energy savings of 64%. Its customers include Five Guys, Sprouts, and the US commercial property manager JLL.

If the entire HVAC sector adopted the switched reluctance technology and achieved similar savings, Turntide calculates that it could reduce annual global carbon emissions by 3.2 gigatonnes – equivalent adding 10 new Amazon rainforests, it argues.

“The energy savings from our current implementations have exceeded even our lofty expectations,” says chairman and CEO, Ryan Morris. “The new investments will support expansion of motor capacities from 1hp (0.745kW) all the way to 30hp (22.3kW), which will make the Smart Motor System compatible with the vast majority of HVAC applications around the world. This has the potential to make Turntide an indelible component of all HVAC systems as global demand for air-conditioning continues to grow under the simultaneous strains of hotter temperatures and rising energy efficiency standards.”

A Turntide switched reluctance motor: claimed to be the world's most efficient and intelligent

Turntide is also setting its sights on other applications, including electric vehicles (EVs). Unlike most current EV motors, the software-defined switched reluctance motors do not rely on permanent magnets or rare-earth minerals, thus cutting costs and simplifying manufacturing. Turntide argues that its technology will lower the costs of EV motors, and of the batteries needed to achieve a similar range, thanks to the motors’ higher efficiency over a wide operating range.

Explaining BMW’s investment in Turntide, Greg Smithies, a partner at BMW i Ventures, says that the motors’ “unique architecture has the potential to improve the efficiency, cost, and safety of developing electric drivetrains, while reducing dependence on unsustainable rare-earth minerals. That is a huge opportunity across all vehicle manufacturers.

“Electric motors are a massive $100bn market,” he adds, “and they move our modern world, while consuming over 45% of the world's electricity. So investing in a company that can deliver huge electrical cost savings, while selling motor systems that are lower cost, more reliable, and made from more sustainable materials, seems like a no-brainer.”

Turntide says its new name better acknowledges its mission to eliminate energy waste. Turning the tide on growing carbon emissions requires a massive improvement in energy efficiency to complement renewable generation, it argues.

“Turntide seeks to impact climate change, at scale,” says CEO Morris, adding that the company “has a technology platform that offers every business the opportunity to lower its carbon footprint.”

Turntide claims that its motors operate at high efficiencies over a wide speed range



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