Traction elevators are a common feature in modern buildings, providing a convenient and efficient mode of transportation between floors. Whether you're at a shopping mall, office building, or residential complex, chances are you've ridden a traction elevator at some point. In this guide, we will explore the world of traction elevators, their mechanisms, types, working principles, advantages, and safety features. By the end, you'll have a comprehensive understanding of traction elevators and their role in vertical transportation systems.

Bank of two traction elevators
Bank of two traction elevators

Understanding Traction Elevators

Traction elevators are a type of elevator system that utilize ropes and sheaves to move the elevator car. They work on the principle of electrical motors and guide rails, allowing for smooth and controlled movement. In a traction elevator, the counterweight balances the weight of the elevator car, reducing the energy consumption required for operation. To better understand the intricacies of traction elevators, let's delve into the basic definition and the mechanism behind them.

Basic Definition

So, what exactly is a traction elevator? A traction elevator is a type of elevator system that uses ropes and sheaves to lift and lower the elevator car within the hoistway. Unlike hydraulic elevators, which use hydraulic fluid and a piston, traction elevators rely on mechanical systems to move the car. This makes traction elevators a popular choice in a variety of buildings, ranging from low-rise to high-rise structures. There are different types of traction elevators, including geared traction elevators, gearless traction elevators, and machine room-less (MRL) traction elevators.

The Mechanism Behind It

The mechanism behind traction elevators involves a combination of components that work together to enable the smooth movement of the elevator car. Essential components include the elevator machine, steel ropes, guide rails, counterweight, and sheave. The elevator machine, consisting of an electric motor, is responsible for the efficient operation of the traction system. Steel ropes are connected to the elevator car and are pulled by the machine, allowing the car to ascend or descend within the hoistway. Guide rails ensure the alignment and stability of the elevator cab, while the counterweight system balances the weight of the car, reducing energy consumption. The sheave serves as the pulley system, guiding the ropes and facilitating the movement of the elevator car.

Types of Traction Elevators

Traction elevators come in different configurations to suit the specific needs of buildings. Let's explore the three most common types of traction elevators: geared traction elevators, gearless traction elevators, and machine room-less (MRL) traction elevators.

Geared Traction Elevator

Geared traction elevators utilize a gearbox to control the speed and direction of the elevator car. They typically use an AC electric motor, providing reliable and efficient performance. Geared traction elevators are commonly used in mid-rise buildings, offering a balance of speed and cost-effectiveness. They have a drive sheave that is essential for the movement of the elevator car. Ongoing maintenance costs for geared traction elevators are generally predictable and manageable.

Gearless Traction Elevator

Gearless traction elevators, on the other hand, do not require a gearbox. Instead, they utilize a direct connection between the motor and the drive sheave using flat steel belts. This configuration enhances energy efficiency and reduces maintenance requirements. Gearless traction elevators are ideal for high-rise buildings, offering smooth and quiet operation. They are known for their high traction and speed capabilities, catering to the demanding needs of modern buildings. The gearless configuration also aligns with the growing focus on space optimization and sustainability.

Machine Room-Less (MRL) Traction Elevator

Machine room-less (MRL) traction elevators integrate the machinery within the hoistway, eliminating the need for a separate machine room. By utilizing a compact, gearless traction motor, MRL elevators optimize the available space and provide installation flexibility. MRL elevators offer a space-saving solution, making them suitable for both new and existing building structures. Additionally, MRL elevators reduce the construction and ongoing maintenance costs associated with traditional traction elevators. Let's dive deeper into the working principles of traction elevators and the key components involved.

Working Principle of Traction Elevators

The working principle of traction elevators is relatively straightforward, involving a series of coordinated actions between various components. These elevators operate by utilizing the interaction between the electrical motor, drive sheave, steel ropes, counterweight, and elevator car. Let's explore the key components involved and the step-by-step operation of traction elevators.

Key Components Involved

The traction elevator system comprises several key components that work together to facilitate the movement of the elevator car. The elevator machine, which includes the electric motor, is responsible for pulling the steel ropes connected to the elevator car. Guide rails ensure the alignment and stability of the elevator cab, allowing it to move smoothly within the hoistway. The counterweight system helps balance the weight of the elevator car, reducing the energy consumption required for operation. Finally, the sheave, also known as the pulley system, guides the ropes, allowing the elevator car to ascend or descend.

Step-by-Step Operation

Understanding the step-by-step operation of a traction elevator is crucial to comprehend how these systems transport individuals between floors. Starting with the electric motor, the traction elevator system follows a specific sequence of actions to ensure safe and efficient operation. Let's review the step-by-step operation of a traction elevator, involving the drive sheave, counterweight, and other components.

Pros and Cons of Traction Elevators

Traction elevators, like any other system, have their pros and cons. It is essential to consider these factors when selecting the most suitable elevator type for a building. Let's explore the advantages and disadvantages of traction elevators.


Advantages of traction elevators include energy efficiency, as they utilize electric motors, which are generally more energy-efficient compared to hydraulic systems. Additionally, traction elevators require less space, making them a suitable choice for buildings with limited space availability. They also offer high-speed capabilities, allowing for swift vertical transportation. Other advantages of traction elevators include the availability of electrical motors, which are more common and accessible than hydraulic systems.


Despite their numerous advantages, traction elevators also have a few disadvantages. Maintenance costs, especially for the traction motor system, may be higher compared to other elevator types. Furthermore, the environmental impact of traction elevators, including energy consumption and potential emissions, should be taken into consideration. Finally, modernization of traction elevators can be a complex and costly process.

Safety Features of Traction Elevators

Safety is a top priority in elevator systems, and traction elevators incorporate various safety features to ensure the well-being of passengers. Let's explore the safety features typically found in traction elevators, focusing on brake systems and emergency operations.

Brake Systems

Brake systems play a critical role in ensuring the safety of traction elevators. In the event of an emergency, the brake system is activated, bringing the elevator car to a controlled stop. The overspeed governor is an important safety feature that monitors the elevator's speed, preventing it from moving too fast. These safety mechanisms, along with the emergency operations of traction elevators, provide peace of mind to occupants, minimizing the risk of accidents or injuries.

Emergency Operations

Traction elevators are equipped with emergency systems and features to ensure the safety of occupants in various situations. Emergency operations may involve mechanical failure, power outages, or other unpredictable events. Here are a few examples of how traction elevators can handle emergencies:

  • Mechanical failure: The elevator is equipped with backup systems to safely move the car and passengers to the nearest floor.

  • Power outage: Traction elevators are equipped with backup power systems, such as generators or batteries, to allow safe evacuation of occupants.

  • Backup systems: In the event of a failure, traction elevators have redundant systems, such as backup pulleys and guide rails, to ensure safe operation.

How to Choose the Right Traction Elevator for Your Building?

Choosing the right traction elevator for a building is crucial to ensure efficient vertical transportation. Various factors must be considered, including the building requirements, current code requirements, and passenger capacity. When selecting a traction elevator, keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Building requirements: Evaluate the size, purpose, and traffic flow of the building to determine the most suitable traction elevator type.

  • Current code requirements: Consider the codes and regulations set by the local authorities to ensure the elevator meets the necessary safety standards.

  • Passenger capacity: Determine the estimated number of passengers the elevator will need to accommodate during peak hours to ensure smooth transportation.


In conclusion, traction elevators offer a reliable and efficient means of vertical transportation in buildings of all sizes. Their mechanism, types, and working principle provide a range of options to cater to different needs. While they come with advantages such as smooth and quiet operation, they also have their disadvantages, including the need for a machine room. Safety features like brake systems and emergency operations ensure the well-being of passengers. When choosing a traction elevator for your building, consider factors such as capacity, speed, and space availability. By understanding the functionality and features of traction elevators, you can make an informed decision that meets the needs of your building and its occupants.


Why is it called a traction elevator?

It's called a traction elevator because the system relies on the friction (traction) between the ropes or belts and the drive sheave to move the elevator car up or down.

What is a traction elevator?

A traction elevator is a type of elevator that uses a system of ropes or belts, typically made of steel, along with a counterweight and an electric motor to move the elevator car. It operates by friction between the ropes and the drive sheave, providing vertical transportation in buildings.

What are the pros and cons of traction elevators?

Pros: Traction elevators are known for their smooth and efficient operation, suitable for tall buildings. They offer energy efficiency and better speed control. Cons: Installation and maintenance costs can be higher. Additionally, power outages can lead to temporary loss of functionality.

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