In the realm of vertical transportation, traction lifts have emerged as a reliable and efficient solution for moving people and goods across multiple floors. These sophisticated systems have become an integral part of modern infrastructure, seamlessly integrating into various commercial, residential, and industrial settings. 

At Northern Elevators, we have been working with UK businesses to repair and install their lifts for over a decade. We have put together this article where you’ll gain insights into the intricate workings of traction lifts and discover their numerous advantages.



How do traction lifts work?

Traction lifts operate on a principle of friction and counterbalancing forces. At the heart of this system lies a traction sheave, a grooved pulley that serves as the driving force behind the lift’s movement. The sheave is powered by an electric motor, which generates rotational motion. This motion is then transferred to the lift’s ropes or cables, which are looped around the sheave and connected to the lift car on one end and a counterweight on the other.

As the motor turns the sheave, the friction between the grooves and the ropes causes the ropes to move, propelling the lift car and counterweight in opposite directions. The counterweight, which is slightly lighter than the maximum load capacity of the lift car, helps balance the system and reduce the amount of energy required to move the car. This counterbalancing mechanism ensures smooth and efficient vertical travel.


Components of a traction lift system

A traction lift system comprises several key components that work in harmony to facilitate safe and reliable operation:

  1. Traction Sheave: The grooved pulley that provides the driving force for the lift’s movement.
  2. Ropes or Cables: These strong, durable cables connect the lift car to the counterweight and wrap around the traction sheave.
  3. Lift Car: The enclosed compartment designed to transport passengers or cargo vertically.
  4. Counterweight: A weighted mass that counterbalances the lift car, reducing the energy required for operation.
  5. Guide Rails: Vertical rails that ensure the lift car and counterweight remain aligned during travel.
  6. Machine Room: A dedicated space housing the motor, sheave, and control systems.
  7. Safety Devices: Various safety features, such as brakes, governors, and buffers, ensure the system operates within safe parameters.


Advantages of traction lifts

Traction lifts offer numerous advantages that make them a preferred choice in various applications:

  • Energy Efficiency: The counterbalancing mechanism reduces the energy required to move the lift car, resulting in lower operating costs and improved sustainability.
  • Smooth Operation: The friction-based system provides a smooth and consistent ride, minimising jerky movements and enhancing passenger comfort.
  • High Load Capacity: Traction lifts can accommodate substantial loads, making them suitable for commercial and industrial applications.
  • Versatility: These lifts can be designed for various travel heights and speeds, adapting to the specific requirements of a building.
  • Reliability: With proper maintenance, traction lifts have a long service life and offer dependable performance.
  • Safety: Stringent safety standards and multiple redundant systems ensure the utmost protection for passengers and cargo.


Different types of traction lifts

Traction lifts come in various configurations to meet diverse needs:

  • Geared Traction Lifts: These lifts employ a gearbox to reduce the motor’s speed and increase torque, allowing for higher load capacities and slower travel speeds.
  • Gearless Traction Lifts: In this design, the motor is directly connected to the traction sheave, resulting in smoother operation and higher travel speeds.
  • Machine Room-Less (MRL) Traction Lifts: These lifts eliminate the need for a dedicated machine room, with the motor and control systems located within the hoistway.
  • Overhead Traction Lifts: In this configuration, the traction sheave and motor are located above the hoistway, allowing for a more compact design.


Factors to consider when choosing a traction lift

When selecting a traction lift for your building or facility, several factors should be taken into consideration:

  1. Load Capacity: Determine the maximum weight the lift needs to accommodate, including passengers, cargo, and any additional equipment.
  2. Travel Height: Assess the required vertical distance the lift must travel, factoring in the number of floors and potential future expansions.
  3. Speed: Consider the desired travel speed, balancing efficiency and passenger comfort.
  4. Building Layout: Evaluate the available space for the hoistway, machine room (if required), and other components.
  5. Traffic Flow: Analyse the anticipated usage patterns and peak demand to ensure the lift system can handle the expected traffic.
  6. Accessibility Requirements: Ensure the lift design complies with relevant accessibility standards and regulations.
  7. Energy Efficiency: Prioritise energy-efficient designs to minimise operating costs and environmental impact.


Maintenance and safety of traction lifts

Regular maintenance is crucial for ensuring the safe and reliable operation of traction lifts. Routine inspections, lubrication, and component replacements should be performed by qualified professionals. You should also be adhering to safety protocols and regulations is paramount to mitigate potential risks and protect passengers and personnel.


Traction lifts vs. hydraulic lifts

While traction lifts are a popular choice, hydraulic lifts offer an alternative solution. Hydraulic lifts rely on a piston and hydraulic fluid to move the lift car, rather than ropes and a traction sheave. 

Each type of lift has its advantages and limitations, making the selection dependent on factors such as building height, load capacity, and installation constraints.



Traction lifts have revolutionised the way we navigate vertical spaces, offering a safe, efficient, and reliable solution for transporting people and goods. By understanding the intricate mechanisms, components, and advantages of these systems, you can make an informed decision when selecting the appropriate lift for your needs. Whether you’re constructing a new building or upgrading an existing facility, traction lifts provide a versatile and sustainable option that seamlessly integrates into modern infrastructure. Embrace the future of vertical transportation and experience the convenience and comfort of traction lifts.


Remember to engage certified professionals and keep up with regular maintenance to ensure the ongoing safety and optimal performance of your lift. Contact our lift experts today for a detailed consultation and find the perfect lift solution for your business.