For more than 150 years, elevators have gone in two directions: up and down. In the future, you might ride them sideways.
ThyssenKrupp AG this week will show the public for the first time a 10 meter (32 feet) functioning model that uses giant magnets to move cars in multiple directions. The technology, called magnetic levitation, is borrowed from high-speed trains and doesn’t rely on cables. The German industrial company says the system allows for multiple cars in one shaft and can increase transport capacity as much as 50 percent.
“The concept is convincing,” Ingo Martin Schachel, an analyst at Commerzbank AG, said by phone from Frankfurt. “If the technology can be brought onto the market at competitive prices, it may offer great opportunities.”
With more of the world’s population moving to cities and buildings rising higher, ThyssenKrupp is betting on elevators, a business that brings in almost half of the company’s profit. By 2050, about 66 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, compared with 54 percent currently, according to estimates from the United Nations.
The company’s miniature model will be unveiled in Gijon, Spain on Thursday. A bigger example of ThyssenKrupp’s technology is being built at a research center in Rottweil, Germany, known as the Test Tower. The site will be 246 meters tall, only slightly shorter than the Eiffel Tower in Paris, and eventually be open to the public.
“This technology could be a significant revenue and income generator for ThyssenKrupp, particularly in the long run,’’ according to Johnson Imode and Mustafa Okur, analysts at Bloomberg Intelligence. They described the market as “massive.”
ThyssenKrupp says the magnetic-levitation elevators are best for buildings higher than 300 meters.
ThyssenKrupp said it has received about 30 expressions of interest. The company, which provided elevators and moving stairs for New York’s One World Trade Center, said the “era of the rope-dependent elevator is now over,’’ when it revealed its plans in its headquarters in Essen, Germany last year.
The crucial question is how shafts can carry multiple cars, according to Henrik Ehrnrooth, chief executive officer of Kone Oyj, one of the biggest elevator manufacturers.
“The technology is not quite mature yet, but when we look forward, there are most likely going to be interesting solutions based on that or similar types of technologies,’’ he said in an Oct. 22 phone interview.
Kone is working on ways to extend the distance elevators can travel and make them lighter. The company introduced a carbon fiber-based rope in 2013 that weighs less than traditional steel. It will be used in the world’s tallest building, the Kingdom Tower in Saudi Arabia, and Kone claims it can double the possible distance of journeys.