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AC Kinetics to showcase next-generation motor control software at ARPA-E Summit; 10-40% reduction in energy consumption and improved performance

Internal AC Kinetics testing used an AC induction motor coupled to a large inertia, following a modified EPA city traffic cycle. The AC Kinetics drive used about half of the energy of competitor commercial drives, while also having the smallest tracking error. Source: AC Kinetics. Click to enlarge.

Motor control company AC Kinetics, Inc. will introduce its next-generation motor control technology at the upcoming ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C., 25-27 February. AC Kinetics was selected as a Semi-Finalist in the Future Energy Pitching Event at the Summit.

The advanced AC Kinetics software (ACKS), supported by real-time adaptive algorithms, runs on standard drive hardware for motorized equipment in the consumer, industrial, and transportation markets. The drive software controls the motor to optimally generate torque on demand in a maximally efficient manner.

Using its nonlinear optimization algorithms, the drive software automatically configures itself to a particular motor and application, eliminating the suboptimal performance and energy usage associated with hand tuning. Motor energy consumption is minimized for the same work output at all operating points, while dynamic performance is increased, the company says.

By optimizing the nonlinear dynamics of the motor, ACKS achieves high energy savings while improving both transient performance and disturbance rejection. Compared to several well-recognized drive brands, the ACKS solution uses up to 50% less energy during transients and 10% less energy in the steady state, while tracking references more precisely and being superior in rejecting disturbances, the company says.

The AC Kinetics drive algorithms can be integrated seamlessly with AC drive products currently available from major manufacturers.

We have developed several algorithms for electric motor control that reduce energy consumption by 10% to 40%, while simultaneously improving motor performance. Our technology also enables motors to run cooler, and therefore last longer.

Electric motors consume 45% of all electric energy produced globally, and two-thirds of the energy consumed for industrial production. AC Kinetics technology can substantially reduce the world’s electric bill—the global spend is US$570 billion annually—while cutting the carbon pollution generated by power plants.

—Dr. Neil Singer, president of AC Kinetics, Inc.

The AC Kinetics team’s first motor control technology, invented by Dr. Singer and patented by MIT, reduces vibrations and acoustics on hundreds of millions of machines world-wide. This next generation motor control is compatible with existing AC induction motor drive hardware and is now available for licensing.

An independent motor drive efficiency study at MIT’s Laboratory for Manufacturing and Productivity (LMP) compared a hardware implementation of the AC Kinetics controller against some of the world’s leading motor drives. The AC Kinetics motor control solution outperformed the other motor drives while using significantly less energy. The testing was completed and published by MIT in May 2012.

The AC Kinetics, Inc. team has worked together for more than 25 years, and its members jointly and independently commercialized new technologies for the last 35 years. In the 1990s, the team invented and commercialized algorithms that reduce residual vibrations, improve settle times, and minimize unwanted acoustics in motorized machines. Those algorithms now control hundreds of millions of machines worldwide ranging from computer disk drives to cranes handling radioactive materials operated by the Department of Energy and private utility companies.

The AC Kinetics team also developed a novel algorithm for control of parallel motor gantry machines. The technology was licensed exclusively to Dover Motion Division of Danaher Corporation to dominate the precision gantry machine market.



Many current e-drive trains are 92% to 96% efficient.

If this new control system can reduce e-energy consumption by up to 50%, what would be the modified e-drive system efficiency? Would it become (92% x 2 = 184%) to (96% x 2 = 192%)? It that possible?

If possible, and if e-motors currently consume about 45% of the e-energy consumed in USA, total USA's e-energy consumption could be reduced by 22.5% with full application of this technology? That would be enough e-energy for many million EVs or enough to close 150 to 200 older pollution coal fired power plants?

If this system could be integrated into future EVs, could batteries size (and cost) be reduced by 40% to 50% for the same e-range?


Does this mean all electric cars will have a 10-40% range increase next year?


" the ACKS solution uses up to 50% less energy during transients and 10% less energy in the steady state" and the 1/2 as much input energy graph don't seem to correlate, but it would be nice if software did all this.

If electric components are 90% efficient and series waveforms(AD/DC/levels) change 5 times, only ~50% of the energy remains.

New GaN, .. power components have a ~99% efficiency, leaving ~95% of input energy for power.

EVERY hybrid, PEV, and EV sold drives electric component prices down.

EVERY electric component sold drives hybrid, PEV, and EV prices down.

Just from tuning, the Volt and Leaf electric ranges have already improved by over 5% annually, besides the price decreases.

Another four years should make these facts clear to all but Fox Republicans.


Harvey is right, this report is poorly written. I think what they meant to say was this control system gets a 10-40% reduction in wasted energy consumption. That would mean a 96% efficient motor becomes a 96.4-97.6% efficient motor.


That makes more sense ai_vin. It must refer to wasted energy only. The net total efficiency gain is probably around 1% to 2% in most cases.



I no longer think so. I missed the graph on my first read of this, going by that it seems they are NOT measuring motor efficiency but instead actual energy consumed during a city traffic cycle.


I'm confused as well. Either electric motors, and electric drive trains in general, are not nearly as efficient as they are said to be or they are comparing apples and oranges somehow.

If an electric drive train is 80-85% efficient, and their graph clearly shows a 50% improvement in total energy usage, then the new drive train/motor control software combo would be between 120-127.5% efficient :-)

I could clearly be looking at something wrong here, but I can't figure out what it is. Anyone???


I don't think they're increasing the efficiency of the "drive train." I think they're increasing the efficiency of how the car is driven.

Do you know anything about hypermiling? Even an unmodified car can get better than EPA rated fuel economy if you how to continually adjust your driving techniques to the terrain. I can see how, in an EV, continually adjusting the torque curve against the power curve as terrain changes could decrease energy consumption.


The graph shows average input energy of about 20W for AC Kinetics vs 40W for the others. Unless their graph is off by 1000x the claimed improvement is probably based on energy used in the control electronics themselves instead of total energy used by the motor.

Their press release claims they can save 104 billion kWhs annually. That's a bit over 1% of the electricity they claims motors consume, consistent with a 10-40% savings applied to control circuitry and not the motor itself.


thats more like it, a 1% improvement in inverter efficiency..


The graphic above indicates that the AC Kenetic 'control software' reduces the energy consumed by about 50%.

The AC Kenetic site gives an energy reduction of 10% to 40% = average of about 25%.

Many recent improved e-motors are 92% to 96% efficient, i.e an average of 94%?

Can one assume that those recent e-motors efficiency could be raised by an average of 25% or up to (94% + 25%) = 119% or 94% + (25% of 94% = 23.5%) = 117.5%. In both cases, can e-motors be made to operate at more than 100% efficiency?

Both the graphic and claimed efficiency improvement (e-energy reduction for same or improved performance) may be misleading?

Neil Singer

As the President of AC Kinetics (Neil Singer, Phd) I want to address the comments and questions raised by your readers. In fact we will add a webpage to our site specifically to address this discussion thread!

While many motor and e-drive trains are stated as being 90% efficient or better, this is only the case under "rated" operating conditions (motor manufacturer's rated speed and load). For a brief description of this concept take a look at this. In practice, AC induction motors are almost never run constantly at rated speed and load. Imagine an elevator or escalator as people enter and leave, or a pump fighting as debris tries to clog it. Instead, motors are invariably oversized for their application and underloaded. And in the case of EVs, the speed and load are always changing.

If you look at efficiency data at the bottom of this page, we measured motor efficiency (not inverter efficiency) by dividing motor output energy by motor input energy using our dynamometer which measures instantaneous current, voltage, output torque, and speed 50,000 times per second. The test hardware was incredibly precise and very expensive (including the $3,500 torque transducer that we annihilated on our first test -- Ouch!!)

The EPA cycle graph in this article shows energy consumption over time in a practical application. As the speed and/or load changes throughout the cycle, the motor's efficiency also fluctuates. The EPA cycle fixes what the acceleration and speed should be at every instant -- so the output work for this trip is fixed. Therefore the only thing that matters is "How much energy do I use to complete this trip?". That is precisely what was measured.

Why such a huge discrepancy between advertised and actual efficiencies in practice?

As the load and/or speed of the motor move away from rated conditions (which they must in real world applications), the efficiencies fall precipitously. The takeaway: efficiency numbers are great for comparing motors, but if you think you are always getting 90+% efficiency from your motor -- as they say here in NY -- "Fuggedaboutit."

Also remember that the advertised efficiencies are for steady state operation. The AC Kinetics software is always optimal under any operating condition (any speed, load, or transient) because the algorithm was perfected to function in that way. While the AC Kinetics software outperforms today's leading drives at steady state, the more the speed and load varies, the better the AC Kinetics drive performs relative to these vector drives. On the EPA Urban traffic cycle we used half of the energy of other drives, which would equate to increased range in an electric vehicle. However, the actual increase in range will vary depending on the nature of the driving cycle.


Still, one can only reduce the wasted energy.

For most ICEVs, with very very low efficiency (often well under 30%) it would be easy to get a lot better.

For most recent e-motors with much higher efficiency (80% to 96%) to get a 50% energy reduction is mostly impossible except under certain rather rare conditions.

If it can be done, most electrified vehicles could go almost twice as far with the same battery pack. Nissan, Mitsubishi, GM, Tesla and many others would be fighting to implement/use this software package and they do not seem to have done it?


"On the EPA Urban traffic cycle we used half of the energy of other drives, which would equate to increased range in an electric vehicle." would ~double a high transient(constantly changing) cycle.

So, what are the Leaf EPA city/hyw cycle MPGs under AC Kinetics software control?


Thanks for joining in with the explanation Neil. If I'm understanding you, then there are really two points:
1) Manufacturers put out "optimal" numbers in their ratings which are not true in real world


2) ai_vin hit the closest to explaining it: your software almost knows how to "hypermile" by driving efficiently as conditions change and optimizing the energy use at any point.


Kit P


Excellent explanation of basic theory of motor operation. Many advocates of BEV are focused on efficiencies without understanding the basic mechanics of variable load. Steam turbines, scoop tube motor/generators, and ICE have been widely used. Most recently varible speed drives for induction motor have been adopted for recirculation pumps on BWRs.

However, I am skeptical that there is a market for replacement of the ICE for light vehicles. Even if battery and motor performance/cost improves, there is the source of power still being fossil fuel.



At least it's possible to get electricity from sources other than fossil fuels and the proportion of US electricity from coal has dropped from 50% in 2002 down to 37% in 2012.

I'll take NG over coal any day. Also,it's an American source of fuel vs the huge chunk of oil we get from foreign sources.


As for the "long tailpipe" arguement;


Since "On the EPA Urban traffic cycle we used half of the energy of other drives, which would equate to increased range in an electric vehicle." doubling the 2012 Leaf 73 mile EPA range would now be 146 miles.


Only bothered to read the neohouston article but it is full of holes.
* Did not compare system efficiencies but only generation efficiencies (ICE versus power station)
* Only compared BEV to ICE rather than HEV, so regenerative braking argument comparing new with old tech rather than alternative new techs - ironic as graphic used supporting evidence came from Escape HEV.

But then if you believe someones blog based on the back of an envelope over peer reviewed studies reported here then you'll ignore me too.

Kit P


“At least it's possible to get electricity”

When I suggested that BEV advocates were clueless about where, you did not have to jump and prove me right so fast. It is not the possible sources of energy that charge batteries but the actual sources. Just for the record, NG is a fossil fuel.

Then there is the bigger issue. It would appear that there are very few BEV advocates and almost none of those actually buy and drive BEV. I work in the power industry and if you cannot convince me to spend big $$$ on a BEV, you will not get many buyers.

It is like Obama want me to turn down by heat or paint my roof white, then fly AF-1 half way around the world to go swimming on vacation. Is he serious! BEV are a very expensive and ineffective solution. Therefore they will not be widely adopted.



Do you have to be such an obnoxious jerk? I was simply asking a question and was trying to be civil.

As to your point about "actual sources vs. possible", as there are not many BEVs on the road today, it's more important to base it on what those sources will be in 10 years than what they are today. That's why I was talking about trends. Yes, NG is a fossil fuel, and I was comparing it to coal and saying that if it's a lesser of evils then I'll take the NG over coal.

Going forward, electricity can be cleaned up. There is nothing that is going to magically make crude oil cleaner. It's only going to get dirtier as we go for more heavy crude or shale oil. And we will always be getting a good % of our oil from foreign sources where we can get all the NG we need right here for a LONG time.


Only bothered to read the neohouston article

"You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink."


* Only compared BEV to ICE rather than HEV, so regenerative braking argument comparing new with old tech rather than alternative new techs

Apparently you didn't even read the first link I gave. You missed the meaning of the line: "Efficiency is another reason the Long Tailpipe argument doesn’t hold up. The state-of-the-art ICE is at best 43% efficient [Wikipedia:ICE]. So only 43% of the energy in the gasoline is converted to mechanical energy at the engine’s output."

state-of-the-art ICE = alternative new techs and 43% efficient is something you could only get out of a HEV, the average non-hybrid ICE on the road today would only get ~28%.

Neil Singer


Our product was officially announced yesterday so it is very new.

@DavidD and HarveyD

According to motor theory a 95% efficient motor only means that the motor was able to reach 95% efficiency at rated speed and rated load on the IEEE standard efficiency tests. It will not get anywhere close to this efficiency in a car driving around town-- that would be theoretically impossible. Even using the AC Kinetics software you can't get that 95% efficiency (unless you are near rated load and speed) and we certainly can't ever go higher than 95% -- it really is impossible. The best way to think about this is that there is some theoretical maximum efficiency (that varies based on load and speed) that is set by the motor design. No one can go past that. Its a brick wall. We just get you closer to that theoretical limit than do present day drives because we do not have to compromise in energy to deliver the performance that is required.


Based on hardware results we predict that a particular unnamed current production EV that has roughly 95% efficient motors would get up to a 20%-30% improvement in EPA Urban cycle range using the AC Kinetics algorithms. The more change of speed and load, the better we do.

@Kelly and ai_vin

You are correct that we optimize the control of the motor so that more of the energy is used to do useful work and less winds up as heat. We do not hypermile or alter the speed/acceleration of the vehicle. Those are command inputs to the drive.

For more specific information feel free to contact us at [email protected].

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