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Wellington Drive Technologies Ltd (Wellington) is the world’s leading manufacturer of high efficiency, electronic fan motors. Wellington motors power point-of-sale refrigerators cooling drinks and other produce sold in supermarkets and convenience stores in 45 countries. Most people in Mexico have grabbed a cold drink from a refrigerator equipped with Wellington motors, and around 30 percent of the population of the US has purchased chilled or frozen produce from similar equipped refrigerators and display cases. Their main customer is the world-wide Coca-Cola system. Wellington motors are also in service with Wal*Mart, Kroger, Tesco, Coles, BP Connect and 7-11 amongst many other supermarkets and convenience stores. To accomplish such an ambitious portfolio and “make a difference” in the world, CEO Dr. Ross Green summed it up: “You have to think laterally” to make a global difference and that’s exactly what Wellington has done to arrive at a product that uses less than one third the energy and extends five times the lifespan compared to conventional electric fan motors.

Wellington’s high efficiency, software controlled, electronic motors replace electric motors of the familiar types that have been in common use for decades. Electric motors are inextricably linked to comfort and convenience, being used in commonplace appliances where billions are sold each year and tens of billions are in service worldwide. The electric motor industry is very conservative and has seen little change in the century plus since electric motors were first widely used. Since being first developed in the 19th century, electric motors proved to be so useful that the technology reached “scale” quickly. High demand meant that designs and manufacturing technology reached their limits by the 1920s, low costs were realised and there has been little change since then. However, conventional electric motors have some fundamental characteristics that were acceptable for many years – but are now major drawbacks. Firstly, common motors are not efficient, often wasting most of electricity supplied to them. Secondly, conventional motors were invented and developed in a time when the costs for raw materials were low. Besides that, the thought of environmental factors never crossed our minds in the late 1800s and most of the 1900s. As a result, the price of the old style motor has remained relatively cheap – until recently. With the onset of environmental concerns, together with a growing awareness of the overall costs of energy and electricity, demand cultivated the need for innovation of a different solution. With advancements in electronics and software technologies, and innovation through Wellington “thinking laterally” a more efficient electronic motor was born.

Electricity is an expensive resource in terms of investment, unit price and environmental costs. The truly staggering point is that today’s small electric motors are not efficient, usually wasting 80% or more of the electricity they use – and that consumers pay for. This creates the opportunity for Wellington. For example, the Wellington motors in Coca-Cola refrigerators use less than one third of the electricity to do the same job, cutting electricity bills by a similar amount. A Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) conducted also reported that Wellington products’ service lifetime are five times longer than conventional types meaning they do not need replacing as much. Moreover, Wellington products have low wastage in their production. In comparison to conventional motors, which have scrap rates of 34 percent of the steel used, manufacturing Wellington motors is accompanied by a mere scrap rate of less than two percent! This is far less material and, in fact, to produce some Wellington electric motor, you use less material than the scrap from producing conventional motors!

The overall amount of electricity consumed to drive electric motors is very large indeed. Between 25 and 40 percent of the electricity generated in most countries goes to power motors. Roughly 60 percent of that is used by small motors with ratings of 75W – about the same as a light bulb – or less. Today in Mexico alone Wellington has over 700,000 motors in service, and the number grows at around 400,000 units annually, with no end in sight. These motors already save some 500 million units of electricity each year, worth $140 million annually at Mexican prices; this adds up to 0.3 percent of Mexico’s total electricity consumption already, freeing up resources for other uses.

Wellington is a good example of advanced technology being used to create value from waste, using scarce resources more carefully. Today products with these attributes are in demand worldwide, and sales growth of more than 50 percent annually has been achieved with refrigerator fan motors for several years. This gives them a target: within 10 years Wellington motors in service worldwide could be saving more electricity than New Zealand uses – a rare example where a New Zealand initiative can directly affect consumption patterns and environmental impacts globally.

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