24 Jul 2024


Linear motors replace ropes in future elevator system

The German elevator manufacturer ThyssenKrupp has announced a technology that will use linear motors instead of traditional ropes to move passenger cabins both horizontally and vertically. The technology, called Multi, will allow several self-propelled cabins to share the same shaft, thus boosting transport capacities by up to 50%, while slashing elevator footprints by up half.

The Multi system will use technologies originally developed for the magnetically levitated (maglev) TransRapid train that ThyssenKrupp developed with Siemens. The company is also applying these technologies in a linear-motor-powered walkway system called Accel, which it says will achieve high capacities and high speeds for short distances, with no waiting times for passengers.

ThyssenKrupp says that the new elevator technology will improve efficiency, while reducing peak loads on building power supplies. The high efficiency will reduce the need for escalators and elevator shafts, resulting in significant savings on building costs as well generating higher rental incomes because of an increase in usable floor space. The company estimates that the technology could boost a building’s usable floor area by up to 25%. (Today’s elevators and escalators can occupy up to 40% of a building’s floor space.)

Although the ideal building height for Multi installations starts at 300m, this system is not constrained by a building’s height. Building designs will no longer be limited by the height or vertical alignment of elevator shafts, opening up previously unimagined possibilities for architects and building developers.

The system’s passenger cabins will follow a loop path – similar to existing paternoster systems – and move at a speeds of around 5m/s, allowing passengers to board a cabin every 15–30 seconds, with stops located about 50m apart. The use of lightweight carbon composite materials for the cabins and doors will results in a 50% weight reduction compared to standard elevators, while the linear drive system will use one motor for both horizontal and vertical movements. Power will be transferred inductively from the shaft to the cabins.

ThyssenKrupp is currently building a test tower in Germany that it will use to develop the new technology. “To get this ground-breaking product onto the market, our new test tower provides the perfect test and certification environment,” explains the company’s CEO, Andreas Schierenbeck. “The tower is set to be completed at the end of 2016, and by this time, we aim to have a running prototype of Multi.”

The limit of one cabin per shaft in conventional elevator systems has been compared to operating a single train on a railway line between two cites. ThyssenKrupp predicts that by combining its novel technology with a simple operating concept and passenger convenience, the Multi system will make the idea of a flexible number of cars per shaft a reality.


Similarly, ThyssenKrupp’s believes that its second application of linear motor technology will transform passenger transport in cities and airports, over distances up to 1.5km. The development of the Accel moving walkway marks the company’s entrance into the mass transit sector and could become a competitive rival to existing automated people movers over short distances.

Passengers join the moving walkway at normal walking speed (around 2.35km/h), accelerate smoothly up to 7.2km/h, and then slow down again before leaving the system. The change is speed is achieved using a band of overlapping pallets that expand to three times their original size. For passengers who continue to walk while on the belt, speeds of up to 12km/h are possible. The system can transport up to 7,300 passengers per hour in each direction, and can change speeds smoothly and safely.

One promising application is to provide fast access to train stations, making them accessible to commuters who would not usually use them due to the distance that they would have to walk. This could boost passenger numbers by up to 30%, ThyssenKrupp estimates.

At airports, the system could cut transit times between gates and to and from parking areas by two-thirds. Passengers could cover 270m in 140 seconds, instead of today’s 415 seconds, cutting journey times by 66%. For airport operators, the system could eliminate the costs of providing buses, automated people movers or sky-trains.

ThyssenKrupp, which has already demonstrated the Accel system in action, is developing the technology with other suppliers including Beckhoff, Prodrive, and Tecnotion.

“Accel is our contribution in aiding the urban shift from road to rail – the ultimate goal for transportation authorities in large cities,” says Schierenbeck. “By reducing transit times in airport hubs and providing both rail and airport operators a cost-effective solution that requires no complex civil or infrastructure work, ThyssenKrupp Accel is successfully catering to the current needs of our rapidly developing urban communities.”

The potential market addressed by the two ThyssenKrupp technologies is huge and is expanding. By 2016, the global demand for elevator equipment (including escalators and moving walkways) and services is predicted to be worth €52bn and to be growing by more than 5% annually.