Air Champ® vs. Electric – A Comparative Analysis

September 6, 2017

Air Champ® vs. Electric - A Comparative Analysis

As the result of tests conducted by an independent laboratory, Nexen Group, Inc. identified seven key performance-related and cost-saving advantages of air-actuated clutch-brakes over electric units of comparable size. The tests were conducted by Huntingdon Engineering & Environmental, Inc. of St. Paul, Minnesota. Units tested were the Nexen Air Champ FMCBE-625 air clutch-brake and a comparable electric clutch-brake.


  • Response Time
  • Torque Output
  • Facing Life Comparison
  • Thermal Horsepower
  • Repair Costs
  • Energy Consumption
  • Unit Cost Savings

Air Champ® vs. Electric: Seven Comparison Points

Response Time

Response time is the increment of time in seconds from the time the power is turned on or off at the control valve, or power supply, to the time the clutch or brake responds with (full load) torque, or disengages and the torque begins to decay. The time to 100% clutch torque for the air clutch was 40% faster than for the electric clutch. The time to zero torque (brake on) for the air clutch was 42% faster than for the electric.

Torque Output

Tests focused on the torque output of NEMA 56 C-flanged air and electric clutch-brakes. The electric clutch transmitted only 54% of its rated torque. In comparison, the Nexen clutch transmitted up to 145% more torque under the same conditions, because it operated at a lower temperature. The higher operating temperature of the electric clutch affected torque fade, as well.

Facing Life Comparison

The estimated facing life of air and electric units were determined in a calculation using the 1) volume of usable facing material, 2) friction materials wear rate, 3) work energy capacity, and 4) kinetic energy-per-cycle for a specific application. The results indicated that the Nexen clutch-brake had considerably more available friction facing volume, which translates into more horsepower-hours of work. While the friction facings on the Nexen unit were worn away partially, they still had sufficient material left to create the required friction against the facings to start or stop the load on the output shaft. The friction facings on the electric unit, on the other hand, were worn so far down that there was metal-to-metal contact.

Thermal Horsepower

The test also revealed that the air clutch-brake consistently operated at lower temperatures compared to the electric unit. Nexen’s FMCBE-625 model has a rated thermal horsepower of 0.14. A comparable electric unit has a rated thermal horsepower of 0.10.

Repair Costs

A test to determine the number of cycles to failure was conducted, and the Nexen clutchbrake was the overwhelming winner, more than doubling the number of cycles achieved by the electric unit. Additionally, replacement part costs published by the manufacturers showed that the air unit is less expensive to repair.

Nexen engineers conducted additional analysis to acquire comparative data on Energy Consumption and Unit Cost Savings. Here’s what they found:

Energy Consumption

Using Friction Facing Life comparison information gathered in a conveyor system application, along with power consumption data published in the electric clutch-brake manufacturer’s catalog, it was discovered that the electric unit coil consumed 2.5 times more energy than the compressor that provided air to the Nexen Air Champ.

Unit Cost Savings

Air Champ clutch-brakes cost up to 10% less than comparable electric units.


As an international manufacturer of industrial power transmission brakes, clutches and clutch-brakes, Nexen leads the industry in innovation. Since 1951, our Engineering, Research and Development Teams have designed and tested products with one motivation in mind – to introduce quality products that help our customers reduce costs and increase productivity.

Our products are continually evaluated and updated, and new products designed to meet the demands in the marketplace. With the introduction of the first air-actuated brakes on the market, Air Champ®, Nexen has set the highest standard for optimal brake and clutch performance in the industry.

For decades, we have been promoting the benefits of these air-engaged clutches and brakes. Yet some people in the industry may still perceive electrically-actuated brakes as more effective, based on the fact that electricity is simple and convenient to operate. We agree electrically-actuated clutches/brakes are simple, but compared to air- actuated clutches/brakes, they don’t measure up in terms of efficiency or cost-effectiveness.

In fact, when you look at life performance, air-engaged clutches-brakes, come out way ahead. They typically have more than twice the life cycle of electrical clutches-brakes.

This document contains the actual performance results of a test conducted by an independent testing lab, between air-actuated and electrically actuated clutch-brakes. It gives comparative data in the following areas:

  • Response Time
  • Clutch and Brake Overlap
  • Torque Output and Fade
  • Friction Facing Life
  • Electrical Energy Consumption
  • Overall Power Consumption

The results clearly show that air-actuated clutch-brakes outperform electric clutch-brakes, and offer superior performance. In fact, Air Champ® clutch-brakes typically have twice the friction facing life cycle of electrical.

Our objective here is to give you a clear understanding of why air-actuated clutches and brakes work so well in the industry. Next time you’re asked to explain performance benefits of air over electric, you’ll have the facts. Get the word out, because Nexen air-actuated clutches-brakes perform better than any other clutch-brake in the industry.

Read more in the pdf.