The ebook FEEE - Fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and Electronics is based on material originally written by T.R. Kuphaldt and various co-authors. For more information please read the copyright pages.

Motor Starting and Speed Control

Some induction motors can draw over 1000% of full load current during starting; though, a few hundred percent is more common. Small motors of a few kilowatts or smaller can be started by direct connection to the power line. Starting larger motors can cause line voltage sag, affecting other loads. Motor-start rated circuit breakers should replace standard circuit breakers for starting motors of a few kilowatts. This breaker accepts high over-current for the duration of starting.

Motors over 50 Kw use motor starters to reduce line current from several hundred to a few hundred percent of full load current. An intermittent duty autotarnsformer may reduce the stator voltage for a fraction of a minute during the start interval, followed by application of full line voltage as above. Closure of the S contacts applies reduced voltage during the start interval. The S contacts open and the R contacts close after starting. This reduces starting current to, say, 200% of full load current. Since the autotransformer is only used for the short start interval, it may be sized considerably smaller than a continuous duty unit.

Multiple fields

Induction motors may contain multiple field windings, for example a 4-pole and an 8-pole winding corresponding to 1800 and 900 rpm synchronous speeds. Energizing one field or the other is less complex than rewiring the stator coils below.

If the field is segmented with leads brought out, it may be rewired (or switched) from 4-pole to 2-pole as shown above for a 2-phase motor. The 22.5o segments are switchable to 45o segments. Only the wiring for one phase is shown above for clarity. Thus, our induction motor may run at multiple speeds. When switching the above 60 Hz motor from 4 poles to 2 poles the synchronous speed increases from 1800 rpm to 3600 rpm. If the motor is driven by 50 Hz, what would be the corresponding 4-pole and 2-pole synchronous speeds?

Ns = 120f/P = 120*50/4 = 1500 rpm (4-pole)
Ns = 3000 rpm (2-pole)

Variable voltage

The speed of small squirrel cage induction motors for applications such as driving fans, may be changed by reducing the line voltage. This reduces the torque available to the load which reduces the speed.

Electronic speed control

Modern solid state electronics increase the options for speed control. By changing the 50 or 60 Hz line frequency to higher or lower values, the synchronous speed of the motor may be changed. However, decreasing the frequency of the current fed to the motor also decreases reactance XL which increases the stator current. This may cause the stator magnetic circuit to saturate with disastrous results. In practice, the voltage to the motor needs to be decreased when frequency is decreased.

Conversely, the drive frequency may be increased to increase the synchronous speed of the motor. However, the voltage needs to be increased to overcome increasing reactance to keep current up to a normal value and maintain torque. The above inverter approximates sinewaves to the motor with pulse width modulation outputs. This is a chopped waveform which is either on or off, high or low, the percentage of "on" time corresponds to the instantaneous sine wave voltage.

Once electronics is applied to induction motor control, many control methods are available, varying from the simple to complex:

Summary: Speed control
  • Scaler Control Low cost method described above to control only voltage and frequency, without feedback.
  • Vector Control Also known as vector phase control. The flux and torque producing components of stator current are measured or estimated on a real-time basis to enhance the motor torque-speed curve. This is computation intensive.
  • Direct Torque Control An elaborate adaptive motor model allows more direct control of flux and torque without feedback. This method quickly responds to load changes.
Summary: Tesla induction motors
  • A polyphase induction motor consists of a polyphase winding embedded in a laminated stator and a conductive squirrel cage embedded in a laminated rotor.
  • Three phase currents flowing within the stator create a rotating magnetic field which induces a current, and consequent magnetic field in the rotor. Rotor torque is developed as the rotor slips a little behind the rotating stator field.
  • Unlike single phase motors, polyphase induction motors are self-starting.
  • Motor starters minimize loading of the power line while providing a larger starting torque than required during running. Starters are only required for large motors.
  • Multiple field windings can be rewired for multiple discrete motor speeds by changing the number of poles.

Last Update: 2011-03-21