Revolutionary 'maglev' lifts that travel sideways on the way to Hong Kong skyscrapers?

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 30 November, 2014, 5:16am
UPDATED : Sunday, 30 November, 2014, 9:43am

Things aren't looking up for lifts any more.

Hong Kong's skyscrapers may be lined up for revolutionary sideways elevators, with German lift maker ThyssenKrupp revealing its new "Willy Wonka-style" contraptions are heading to the city.

Dubbed the "Multi", the cable-free system uses magnets to move lifts horizontally and vertically. The new design means you'll never have to wait more than 30 seconds for a lift, according to the company.

A ThyssenKrupp spokesman said last night that it was "setting up talks with building developers in Hong Kong to explore possibilities for the new technology", the result of two years of research and development.

"The system is dedicated to mid and high-rise buildings, which makes Hong Kong a primary market for Thyssenkrupp," he told the Sunday Morning Post. In New York, office workers spend a cumulative 16.6 years waiting for lifts and 5.9 years riding in them, ThyssenKrupp chief executive Andreas Schierenbeck said. The estimates are likely to be higher for Hongkongers because the city is home to the most skyscrapers in the world, more than double the number in New York.

The new system uses the same magnetic levitation - or maglev - technology that propels high-speed trains and can move multiple lifts through a single shaft in a loop at five metres per second.

ThyssenKrupp promises the cable-free design, which it calls "the holy grail of the elevator industry", will increase carrying capacity by 50 per cent and save space, as it allows more than one cabin to travel through a shaft at one time. It also requires smaller shafts than conventional lifts.

A prototype of the system will be in operation by the end of 2016 at a 245-metre-high test tower now being built in Germany.

ThyssenKrupp's recent projects in Hong Kong include helping the Airport Authority install passenger boarding bridges at a new midfield concourse and building escalators and moving walkways at the MTR Corporation's West Kowloon rail terminus.

Hong Kong is estimated to have the most lifts - 60,356 - for a city of its size, the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department says. Many of those service the city's 1,300 skyscrapers, defined as buildings of 100 metres or more.