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Surge Propagation and Overvoltages for PWM-Inverter-Driven Motors

Kanto Gakuin University, Japan
Fuji Electric Co., Ltd., Japan
The use of PWM inverters with high switching char-
acteristics to provide variable frequency supply to motors
causes overvoltage with steep-fronted waveform on the
motor terminals.
Insulation failure in motor winding can be caused by
this steep-fronted transient voltage in inverter drive sys-
tems. From the point of view of wave propagation with the
skin effect of cable conductors, these phenomena have not
been reported previously. The main purpose of this paper
to describe the exact surge propagation considering the skin
effect of cable conductors and the wave deflections at
inverter and motor terminals. 2000 Scripta Technica,
Electr Eng Jpn, 132(2): 65-72, 2000
Key words: PWM inverter; surge propagation; ca-
ble; motor winding; insulation breakdown.
1. Introduction
The PWM inverter used for variable speed motor
drive consists of a converter part to convert the power
supply voltage to dc, a dc link circuit part to suppress
pulsation in the dc voltage, and an inverter part to generate
an equivalent sinusoidal ac voltage by appropriately chop-
ping the dc link circuit voltage.
The inverter output voltage waveform forms a pulse
train with different widths.
The inverter output voltage contains many high har-
monic wave components based on a carrier frequency other
than the fundamental wave component necessary for output
voltage. The fundamental wave component drives the mo-
tor, and the high harmonic components increase losses or
cause noise.
In the case of a cage induction motor of approxi-
mately 200 kW, a carrier frequency of 800 Hz decreases the
efficiency by 0.9% compared to a commercial power drive.
However, if the carrier frequency is increased to 3 kHz, the
increase of reactance for higher harmonics and the resulting
decrease of higher frequency currents only decreases the
efficiency by 0.5% compared to a commercial power drive
Consequently, higher carrier frequencies have been
selected in the wake of progress in power source transistors,
and at present, a frequency of approximately 20 kHz is
being used in practical applications.
Transistors capable of high-speed switching (such as
IGBTs) are used for PWM inverters with high carrier
frequency. However, the switching speed is so high that the
inverter output voltage consists of steep-fronted waves.
This paper defines a voltage that changes abruptly,
such as the pulse voltage of an inverter output, as 'surge
When a surge voltage is applied to a motor via cables,
reflections of the surge voltage are repeated at the motor
and inverter terminals. This generates a steep-fronted over-
voltage, which is larger than the inverter output voltage.
This overvoltage is applied to the motor terminals, causing
the winding`s insulation to break down. The overvoltage is
related to the wave front of the surge voltage, the cable
length, and the skin effect of cable conductors. This paper
discusses the propagation phenomena of the surge voltage,
with consideration given to the skin effect of cable conduc-
tors, proposes an exact formula for the motor terminal
voltage waveform, and identifies this waveform by meas-
urements. In the past, this overvoltage was experimentally
investigated for various cable lengths. So far as the authors
are aware, however, there is no formula that expresses surge
propagation phenomena considering the skin effect of the
This paper computes the motor terminal voltage
waveform based on the surge propagation phenomena, and
2000 Scripta Technica
Electrical Engineering in Japan, Vol. 132, No. 2, 2000
Translated from Denki Gakkai Ronbunshi, Vol. 119-D, No. 4, April 1999, pp. 508-514
identifies it by experiments. In addition, the effect on the
motor terminal waveform of variations in the cable length
and the ON-time (pulse width) of the inverter is discussed.
In fact, if the front length of the surge voltage is short, the
inverter output voltage becomes a maximum of twice as
large. When the ON-time of the inverter is very short, the
inverter output voltage becomes three times as large as
before and may have an important effect on the motor
2. Surge Propagation in a Cable of Infinite Length
In the case of a motor driven by a three-phase PWM
inverter via cables, the cables connecting the inverter and
the motor have a certain length. Because the surge voltage
is repeatedly reflected at the terminals of the motor and the
inverter, the surge voltage propagates along an equivalently
long cable. Initially, the surge voltage is assumed to propa-
gate along a cable of infinite length.
When the surge voltage is applied to the R phase of
three-phase cables (R, S, T), the surge voltage appears
between the R phase and the S/T phases, propagating along
some distance. If electrical parameters are defined as induc-
tance L [H/m], capacitance C [F/m], and resistance R
[O/m], the cable can be represented by an equivalent circuit
with distributed parameters (Fig. 1).
The propagation velocity of the surge (v) and the
surge impedance of the cable (Z
) are expressed as
Generally, the propagation velocity of the surge along
the transmission line is equal to that of light, but the velocity
along the cable becomes half that of light, 150 m/s, due to
the effect of the dielectric constant c of the cable insulation.
The surge voltage e
(t) at the cable input terminal propa-
gates with velocity v and reaches point x from the starting
point with a time delay of t = x/ v.
If the resistance R of the cable is negligible, the
voltage waveform at point x is the same as that of e
Unless R is negligible, the voltage waveform will be dis-
torted due to loss caused by R.
If e
(t) is the step waveform of E at t = x/ v, the
electric current i(x) of the point x is expressed by
where o is the attenuation coefficient.
If o is sufficiently small, as in the case of the cables
used for the inverter-driven motor, e ~ Z
i, the voltage
e(x) at point N is expressed as
Figure 2 shows the voltage waveform of f(t), that is one
surge voltage e
(t) of the pulse train of the inverter output.
in this figure is the dc link circuit voltage of the inverter.
For an inverter output voltage waveform as shown in
Fig. 2, Rdenburg [5] has provided the following approxi-
mate relation at a distance x [m] along the cable of infinite
length, time t [s], voltage e(x, t), and with consideration
of Eq. (3):
When t s x/ v, e(x, t) = 0.
The front of the surge wave is very steep. As the
propagation distance x of the surge wave increases, the front
of the surge wave becomes smoother due to attenuation.
Therefore, unless the frequency-dependent resis-
tance due to the skin effect of conductors is considered, the
surge propagation phenomena cannot be expressed exactly.
Since the resistance at high frequencies is proportional to
the square root of the angular frequency e, the cable resis-
tance is expressed approximately as follows [6]:
where R
is the direct current resistance [O/m] and is the
skin-effect coefficient. Rdenberg expressed the relation
Fig. 1. Equivalent circuit of cable.
Fig. 2. Waveform of inverter output.
between the wave front and e with the following approxi-
mate relation:
Using Eqs. (5) and (6), and taking the skin effect of con-
ductors into consideration, the attenuation coefficient o is
given by
The surge voltage reaches a distance x when the time t is
x/v. Therefore, Eqs. (6) and (7) have no meaning if
t x/ v < 0. Using Eqs. (4) and (7), the surge voltage wave-
forms calculated at x = 0, 100, 200, 300, 400, and 500 m
are shown in Fig. 3, taking into consideration the attenu-
ation due to the skin effect of the cables.
Figure 3 shows the surge waveform versus the time
after the surge reached point x. Parameters used in the
calculations were determined from real measurements (to
be described later) as
/ 2Z
= 1.8 10
, v = 150m/ s, o = 50s/ rad
3. Surge Voltage Waveform at the Motor Terminal
When the surge voltage propagates from a region
having surge impedance Z
to a region with surge imped-
ance Z
, as in the lightning surge propagation phenomena
along transmission lines, the surge is reflected at the bound-
ary. The reflection coefficient and the penetrating coeffi-
cient | are expressed as
Figure 4 shows the configuration of the inverter drive
If the cable length is L
[m], the first wave of the surge
will reach the motor terminal after a delay of L
/ v. This first
wave is reflected at the motor terminal and at the inverter
terminal, and returns to the motor terminal 2L
/ v after
arrival of the first wave. As shown in Fig. 4, due to this
reflection phenomenon, a high-frequency overvoltage ap-
pears at the motor terminal at the time of switching. With a
surge propagation time T
[s], reflection coefficients
at the terminals of the motor and the inverter, and
penetrating coefficients |
at the motor terminal, the surge
voltage e
(t) at the motor terminal is expressed as
The inductance of the armature winding of the motor
decreases as the output increases. This is due to the fact that
at the same voltage, the larger the output power, the fewer
the turns of the winding. On the other hand, the capacitance
increases with rising output power.
Therefore, the surge impedance generally decreases
as the output power increases. The increases in surge im-
pedance are roughly proportional to the rated voltage.
It has been reported that the cage-type induction
motor has a surge impedance (Z
) of several kilohms when
the output power ranges from 10 kW to 300 kW [7].
Fig. 3. Surge voltage of cable at distance x.
Fig. 4. Configuration of inverter drive system.
Because the intermediate circuit of the PWM inverter
is a voltage-type inverter having a capacitance of 1000 F
or more, the surge impedance Z
becomes nearly zero. As
will be described later, since the surge impedance Z
of the
cable is approximately 100 O, the following relations exist:
Meanwhile, since Z
<< Z
<< Z
for surge propagation,
precise values of Z
and Z
are not important.
In Eq. (9), n = 1 describes the first wave of the surge
arriving at the motor terminal after a delay of T
, and n = 2
describes the second wave of the surge reflecting at the
motor terminal and the inverter terminal, and then arriving
at the motor terminal after a delay of 3T
. The sign, how-
ever, is reversed from Eq. (11). Using Eqs. (9), (10), and
(11), the surge voltage e
(t) at the motor terminal can be
expressed exactly.
4. Measurement of Surge Propagation
4.1 The inverter and cable used for actual
The output voltage waveform of the PWM inverter
becomes a series of pulses that closely correspond to the
carrier frequency. Since their pulse width (ON-time, T
) is
not constant, commercially available inverters are not well
suited for studying the propagation of surge voltages.
Therefore, a converter, as specified in Table 1, capa-
ble of generating a surge voltage with constant pulse width,
was manufactured and used for the experiments. The con-
stant pulse width can be adjusted at setup. The front length
of the surge wave of this device, T
, is 0.2 s.
The three-phase cables have a cross-sectional area of
1.25 mm
, consisting of 50 strands of 0.18-mm diameter.
These cables were wound on a drum in lengths L
of 50,
100, 150, and 200 m for the experiments.
The measured parameters between one phase and the
two other phases are
direct current resistance R
= 0.0218 O/m
inductance L = 43.4 10
capacitance C = 1.15 10
Figure 5 shows the measured voltage waveform of
the motor terminal when the dc link voltage of the inverter
is 100 V and the cable length is 100 m. One cycle of the
waveform in Fig. 5 corresponds to 4T
4.2 Surge propagation velocity along the cable
Using the fact that one cycle of the waveform is
, the propagation velocity v can be calculated corre-
sponding to each measurement for L
= 50, 100, and 200
m. The results of 143, 153, and 150 m/s, respectively, are
approximately one-half the speed of light.
Moreover, the 142 m/s real propagation velocity
calculated from the measured values of L and C agrees with
the calculated value. Therefore, v will hereafter be consid-
ered as 150 m/s. The surge impedance Z
of the cable is
calculated from measurement of L and C as 61.4 O.
4.3 Skin-effect factor for the cables
The wave front of the inverter output voltage equally
contains various frequency components. However, due to
the skin effect, resistance increases for the cable conductor,
especially at high frequencies. When the surge propagates,
the attenuation of the surge wave front is especially large.
Table 1. Specifications of the inverter used in actual
Fig. 5. Measured voltage waveform at motor terminal.
Because a complex method was used to displace the cable
conductors used in the experiment, the skin effect could not
be calculated, but was deduced from the measurements.
Figure 6 shows the relation between the measured
voltage waveform and that calculated from Eq. (9) by
varying the skin-effect factor o under the conditions of
= 100 V, L
= 100 m, and v = 150 m/s.
As seen from Fig. 6, the waveform for o = 50 s/rad
can exactly simulate the measured surge voltage waveform.
4.4 Voltage waveform at the motor terminal
Using the conditions of the surge impedance Z
, the
propagation velocity v, the skin-effect factor o, the dc
resistance R
, and Eq. (9), the surge voltage e
can be
computed as shown in Fig. 7. In Fig. 7, the calculated result
and the measured waveform agree very well. The surge
voltage is output from the inverter output terminal starting
at time t = 0.
Thus, the surge propagation of a motor drive system
that uses a PWM inverter can be simulated accurately by
By varying the skin-effect factor o under the same
conditions as shown in Fig. 7, the voltage wave at the motor
terminal e
was computed as shown in Fig. 8.
As shown in Fig. 7, the waveform e
calculated under
the condition of o = 50 s/rad agrees with the measured
values. As shown in Fig. 8, if the skin effect is neglected (o
= 0), calculated values will differ largely from the measured
waveform. Therefore, in the simulation of voltage at the
terminal of an inverter-driven motor, it is important to
consider the skin effect of the cable conductor.
5. Impact of the Surge Voltage on the Motor
Figure 9 shows the armature winding of a low-volt-
age motor. The slot is semienclosed. The insulation of the
motor winding should have a sufficient dielectric constant
to withstand ground and have B- or F-class temperature
resistance. Each conductor is enamel-coated and has mul-
tiple windings. The winding insulation capability of a mo-
tor includes the dielectric ability to withstand ground and
the dielectric strength between conductors.
When a motor is driven by a commercial power
source, since the applied voltage between conductors at
normal operation is several tens of volts (very small), the
dielectric strength against ground is most important. On the
other hand, when driven by an inverter, a surge voltage with
Fig. 6. Skin-effect factor o of cable conductor.
Fig. 7. Comparison of calculated and measured voltage
wave at motor terminal.
Fig. 8. Relation between o and e
a short wave front is applied, and the voltage between
conductors becomes ten times larger than the former case.
The dielectric strength between conductors is the
most important characteristic and the main cause of insula-
tion breakdown. For example, to guarantee continuous
operation with a 20-year life expectancy for a polyester
amide-imide enamel conductor (with a coating layer of
between 30 and 40 m), often used for the winding of
low-voltage motors, it is necessary to suppress the interturn
voltage to 700 V or less at normal inverter operation [9].
Surge propagation along the motor winding is more
complicated than that along the cable. In Fig. 10, the
number of coils from the inlet U of the armature winding
is j, the number of each coil end is n (coil j has a coil end
of n = j, j + 1), the peak value of the surge voltage applied
to the motor terminal is E
, the voltage at the coil end n is
, and the voltage between both ends of coil j i s
(= e
). Assuming that the surge propagation veloc-
ity is 150 m/s, the surge wave front length is T
= 0.2 s,
and the conductor length per coil is L
= 20 m, the voltage
at each coil end e
/ E
(n = 1, 2, 3, . . . ) and the voltage
between the coil end Ae
/ E
( j = 1, 2, 3, . . . ) can be com-
puted as shown in Fig. 10.
The inlet coil (j = 1) has the largest Ae
. As the
conductor length per coil L
increases, the surge propaga-
tion time increases, and consequently Ae
Figure 11 shows an example of the measured voltage
between the coil ends (Ae
) of 14 inlet coils which have
different conductor lengths per coil (L
As can be seen from Fig. 11, the measured voltage of
the inlet coil Ae
depends on the wave front length T
of the
surge and the coil conductor length L
If the attenuation of the surge is neglected in the range
where L
is small, the value of Ae
/ E
can be expressed by
Fig. 9. Armature winding of low-voltage motor.
Fig. 10. Winding connection and coil voltage.
Fig. 11. Measured voltage on the inlet coil.
6. Motor Overvoltage in Case of Short ON-time of
the Inverter
In the cases described above, ON-time T
of the
inverter is relatively long. If T
is very short, the transient
phenomena at ON-time and OFF-time overlap. Using the
theory of electrical circuit superposition, the transient phe-
nomena can be solved by applying Eq. (9).
If the inverter output voltage in Fig. 2 is f(t) and the
motor terminal voltage in Fig. 7 is e
(t), then the single
pulse voltage e
(t) of the inverter output is
The motor terminal voltage e
derived from e
(t) can be
expressed by the following equation using the superposi-
tion theory:
One cycle of e
(t) is 4T
. When the ON-time of the inverter
is short and T
~ 2T
, superimposing the voltage wave-
form on the right side of Eq. (14) causes the change of e
to be a maximum.
Figure 12 shows a comparison between the calcu-
lated and measured values of voltage at the motor terminal
for L
= 100 m, T
= 1.3 s, 4T
= 2.7 s, T
= 0.2 s, and
= 25 V. The change of e
in Fig. 12 is markedly different
from that in Fig. 7.
In Fig. 12, the maximum absolute value of e
is 44
V. This value is 1.76 times higher than the dc link circuit
voltage U
of the inverter. This factor does not exceed a
value of 2 even if the attenuation of the surge is very small.
As shown in Fig. 10, in the case where T
is smaller
than the propagation time through one coil, if the motor
terminal voltage varies from E to -E, the voltage -E is
applied to the inlet end of the first coil, while the voltage of
the outlet end of the first coil remains at E. Therefore, the
voltage applied through the first coil will reach 2E.
In other words, this voltage has an important impact
on the conductor insulation of the motor. The voltage
change Ae
(peak-to-peak voltage change of the first wave
in Fig. 12) is maximized at T
= 2T
. This value is 78 V,
and 3.1 times higher than U
in Fig. 12.
If T
is long, Ae
is the peak value of the first wave
in Fig. 7, and Ae
< 2U
is satisfied. Therefore, the dielec-
tric strength of the conductor insulation corresponding to
= 2U
is sufficient.
For a very short ON-time (T
~ 2T
), the value of
/ U
becomes approximately 3 as shown in Fig. 12.
is a maximum at T
= 2T
, and is closely related to
the cable length L
and the current-carrying period T
Using these parameters and assuming T
= 0.2 s, the
voltage change Ae
/ U
is computed as shown in Fig. 13.
From Fig 13, when T
< 10 s and possibly
> 2U
, it is necessary to consider the dielectric strength
of the motor winding, especially for the conductor insula-
Similar phenomena appear when the OFF-time
is short.
For a long T
, the transient phenomenon finishes
and the motor terminal voltage becomes steady at U
. If the
inverter current is interrupted at t = 0 and turned on at
, the motor terminal voltage e
can be expressed as
follows using the superposition theory:
Fig. 12. Voltage wave at motor terminal with very short
ON-time of inverter output. Fig. 13. Relation between Ae
and T
Therefore, for small T
, referring to Eq. (14) at small
and regarding T
= T
, the voltage change Ae
a maximum value at T
= 2T
. This maximum value is
the same as that for small T
Thus, for small T
and T
~ 2T
, the motor ter-
minal voltage e
can possibly be greater than twice the
value of U
. The minimum e
in Fig. 12 is -33 V. For
~ 2T
, according to Eq. (15), the maximum value of
is 58 V and e
/ U
becomes 2.3.
7. Conclusions
This paper described surge propagation and its im-
pact on a motor system driven by a PWM inverter. The
phenomenon of surge voltage propagation along cables has
been investigated with consideration of the skin effect of
cable conductors. Exact formulas for computing the motor
terminal voltage waveform have been established, and veri-
fied by measurements. For a very short ON-time under the
condition of T
~ 2T
, the overvoltage of the motor termi-
nal does not exceed twice the value of the dc link circuit
voltage U
of the PWM inverter. The impact on the arma-
ture winding insulation of the motor, however, should con-
sider a surge overvoltage that is three times higher than the
intermediate circuit voltage U
For a very short OFF-time under the condition of
~ 2T
, the overvoltage of the motor terminal is not less
than twice the value of the voltage U
. The same considera-
tion should be applied to the armature winding conductor
insulation of the motor as in the case when T
~ 2T
The authors will be gratified if this paper is helpful
to the many engineers whose work involves inverter-driven
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AUTHORS (from left to right)
Shoji Moriyasu (member) received his B.E. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering from Kyoto University in 1959
and 1981. From 1959 to 1993, he was with Fuji Electric Company, working mainly in the design section on large rotating
electrical machines. Since 1993, he has been with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering of Kanto Gakuin
University, and is presently a professor.
Yoshihiko Okuyama (member) graduated from the Electrical Engineering Department of Tohoku University in 1963 and
then joined Fuji Electric Company. He is working in the Rotating Machinery Technology Department Laboratory of Fuji Electric
Corporate and Development, Ltd.