Sideways-moving elevators disrupts building design

Any time something is described as “Willy Wonka-style” it ought to get attention. That eccentric chocolatier was a groundbreaker: he made a multi-course meal fit into a stick of gum; he invented ice cream that could stay out in the sun all day without melting; and he had an elevator that travelled sideways. While five-course gum and invincible ice cream may not be on the market just yet, the world is one step closer to replicating the great chocolate maker’s elevatorial innovations. That’s right: sideway travelling elevators are expected to be running in the next two years.

The elevators (which can travel both up and down and side-to-side) are the latest innovation from German company ThyssenKrupp. The new elevator system, MULTI, operates using magnets instead of cables. According to a Bloomberg article, the technology (called magnetic levitation or “maglev” for short) is already being used to propel some high-speed trains.

A promotional video on ThyssenKrupp’s website delves into the history and future of the elevator. 

The traditional cable-operated elevator was invented in 1854. Over a century and a half later, the MULTI system has tweaked the original design to get rid of cables altogether in favour of “maglev” technology.

Efficiency is a great advantage to this new technology. MULTI has been compared to subway systems–multiple cabins can run at once, and can operate in a smooth circuit. Rather than waiting for an elevator to travel through fifty floors to pick you up, the MULTI system is designed to ensure that the next elevator car will always be a few seconds away.

Not only will the new technology save time, it is also energy-efficient. ThyssenKrupp predicts that MULTI will allow the transportation capabilities of elevators to increase up to 50 per cent.


In a world where everything is high-speed (and high-speed is everything), we are constantly looking for more efficient ways to perform daily tasks. A big part of this increased efficiency requires cutting down on unnecessary wait times; this is where MULTI comes in. According to ThyssenKrupp, the goal will be for the MULTI elevators to run at a speed of 5 metres per second, “enabling passengers to have access to an elevator cabin every 15 to 30 seconds.” 

The new elevator system will make its first public appearance in Rottweil, Germany where a “test tower” is under construction. The tower is expected to be completed by 2016

Forecasted start year: 
2016 to 2020


Load comments