Meteen naar de inhoud

What is a three-phase electric motor?

A 3-phase motor is an electric motor that operates with three phases of alternating current (AC) power. It is one of the most commonly used types of electric motors in industrial and commercial applications due to its efficiency, reliability, and durability.

3 Phase electric motor exploded view
Image: Exploded view of a three phase electric motor

The 3-phase motor has three sets of windings, or coils, that are positioned at 120-degree intervals around the stator (the stationary part of the motor). The windings are connected to the power supply in a specific sequence, which creates a rotating magnetic field that interacts with the magnetic field produced by the rotor (the rotating part of the motor). This interaction causes the rotor to turn, which in turn drives the mechanical load.

Three-phase motors are available in a range of sizes and power ratings and are used in various applications such as pumps, fans, compressors, conveyors, and machine tools. They are preferred over single-phase motors because they are more efficient, have higher starting torque, and are more reliable.

Where is three-phase power available?

Three-phase power connections are mainly used for larger buildings and industrial applications, where more power is required than what single-phase power connections can provide. Most homes do not have a three-phase power connection, but are connected to the single-phase power network. A three-phase electric motor is therefore particularly suitable for industrial applications.

1Hp electric motor: 3D 360° View

560Hp electric motor: 3D 360° View

Advantages and disadvantages of 3 phase electric motors

High efficiencyHigher cost
High starting torqueMore complex installation
Less vibration and noiseLess suitable for residential applications
Higher reliabilityLess suitable for small loads
Suitable for heavy loadsPotential imbalance
Flexible applications


  1. High efficiency: 3-phase motors are more efficient than single-phase motors due to their ability to create a rotating magnetic field that continuously delivers power to the load. This results in a higher power factor and lower energy consumption.
  2. High starting torque: 3-phase motors have a high starting torque, which means they are capable of starting heavy loads from the beginning without overloading the system.
  3. Less vibration and noise: The rotating magnetic fields in a 3-phase motor provide smooth and even operation, resulting in less vibration and noise.
  4. Higher reliability: Due to their simple construction and high efficiency, 3-phase motors require less maintenance and have a longer lifespan than single-phase motors.
  5. Suitable for heavy loads: 3-phase motors are able to handle heavy loads and are therefore suitable for industrial applications such as pumps, fans, compressors, and conveyors.
  6. Flexible applications: 3-phase motors are available in a wide range of power and sizes, making them suitable for various applications and industries.


  1. Higher cost: 3-phase motors are often more expensive than single-phase motors due to their more complex construction and higher efficiency.
  2. More complex installation: Installing a 3-phase motor requires more knowledge and experience than installing a single-phase motor, as it requires a 3-phase power supply to be present and the connections to be correct.
  3. Less suitable for residential applications: 3-phase motors are less suitable for use in homes because most households only have single-phase power supply. This means an additional power source must be installed to use a 3-phase motor.
  4. Less suitable for small loads: 3-phase motors are not always suitable for small loads as they are designed for heavy loads and higher power. This can lead to inefficiency and higher costs for smaller applications.
  5. Potential imbalance: If the 3-phase power supply is not balanced properly, it can lead to imbalance in the motor, which can cause damage and reduce efficiency.

The main International standards for 3-phase electric motors

1. IEC standard – Worldwide except the USA

The European Standard for 3-phase electric motors is the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) standard 60034. This standard covers the technical specifications, performance, and efficiency requirements for rotating electrical machines, including 3-phase induction motors, synchronous motors, and generators. It sets the minimum efficiency levels for 3-phase motors and provides guidelines for motor testing, design, and performance. The IEC 60034 standard is widely used in Europe and other regions that follow European standards, and it is recognized by many countries as a benchmark for motor efficiency and quality.

The IEC standard is recognized as the main standard for electric motors in many countries and regions around the world, in addition to Europe. Some of the countries and continents where the IEC standard is widely used include:

  1. Asia: Many countries in Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea, and India, use the IEC standard as a benchmark for motor quality and efficiency.
  2. Africa: The IEC standard is recognized as a benchmark for motor efficiency and quality in many African countries, including South Africa, Egypt, and Morocco.
  3. Middle East: Many countries in the Middle East, including Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, follow the IEC standard for electric motors.
  4. Latin America: The IEC standard is recognized as a benchmark for motor efficiency and quality in many Latin American countries, including Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina.

Overall, the IEC standard is widely recognized and used as a benchmark for electric motor quality and efficiency in many countries and regions around the world.

2. NEMA standard – USA only

The standard is published by the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) and is called the NEMA MG 1 standard. This standard covers the technical specifications and performance requirements for AC and DC motors, including 3-phase motors. The NEMA MG 1 standard specifies the physical dimensions, power ratings, efficiency levels, and testing requirements for 3-phase motors used in industrial and commercial applications. It also provides guidelines for motor installation, operation, and maintenance. The NEMA MG 1 standard is widely used in North America and is recognized as a benchmark for motor quality and reliability in the region.

Three-phase electric motors versus other types of drives

Type of MotorAdvantagesDisadvantages
3-phase electric motorsHigh efficiency, high starting torque, low maintenance, suitable for high-power industrial applicationsHigher cost and complexity than single-phase motors
Single-phase electric motorsSimpler and less expensive than 3-phase motors, suitable for smaller loads and residential applicationsLower starting torque and efficiency compared to 3-phase motors
DC electric motorsHigh starting torque, efficient at low speeds, precise speed controlRequire additional components such as a power supply and motor controller, higher maintenance
Servo motorsHigh accuracy and precision, suitable for CNC machines and industrial automationHigher cost and complexity than other types of motors
Stepper motorsPrecise control of position and speed, suitable for CNC machines and 3D printersLower torque compared to other types of motors, requires careful calibration
Hydraulic motorsHigh torque, suitable for heavy-duty applicationsHigher maintenance and complexity, require hydraulic fluid and additional components