Hydraulic Versus Traction Elevators

December 3, 2020

From the desk of Jesse Pulley – Area Manager – Dallas

Do you know what the major differences are between a Hydraulic Elevator and a Traction Elevator?

Both types of elevators are a very reliable form of Vertical Transportation, that is used by millions of
people around the world each day. But not all elevators are created equal. Most people don’t realize
exactly how different these two types of elevators can actually be. Here are some of the major differences.

Hydraulic Elevators use an “Electric Pump” that pushes Hydraulic Fluid into a cylinder, which by
pressure moves a piston to drive the elevator up and down the elevator shaft. These types of elevators are
typically limited to +/- 60 feet of travel.

There are two main types of Hydraulic Elevators, “Holed” and “Hole-less” units. Below is a list of “Pros” and “Cons” for Hydraulic Elevators.


  • Low Initial Cost
  • Rapid Installation
  • Much Higher Lifting Capacity
  • Reduced Structural Requirements
  • Smaller Footprint


  • Limited in Vertical Rise
  • Limited in up speed of 150 feet per minute suggested maximum
  • Limited 5-Minute Handling Capacity
  • Increased Audible Noise and Reduced Ride Quality
  • Increased Heat Load
  • Potential Environmental Issues Due to Hydraulic Fluid
  • High Electrical Requirements
  • High Electrical Cost

Traction Elevators utilize an electric machine that uses a system of cables/belts, sheaves, and
counterweights to lift the elevator cab up and down the elevator hoistway. As their lifting capacity may
not be as great as larger hydraulic elevators, they can move more people, at a very high rate of speed, more

There are three main types of Traction Elevators, Geared, Gearless, and MRL. Below is a list of “Pros”
and “Cons” for Traction Elevators.


  • Increased Travel / Vertical Rise Capability
  • Increased Car Speed Capability of up to 2,000 FPM
  • Smoother Ride Quality
  • Regenerative Power Capability / Energy Efficient
  • Higher 5-Minute Handling Capacity


  • Increased Price on Installation and Long-Term Maintenance
  • Increased Installation Time
  • Increase Overhead and Pit Requirements
  • Increased Structural Shaft Requirements
  • Longer Production Lead times

Should you need assistance on what application is right for your building, please do not hesitate to give
us a call. VDA has over 3,000 Years of Combined Elevator Industry knowledge accumulated from our
130 + Elevator Professionals.  When you think of Elevators, think of VDA. We will be glad to assist
you and your Team design the perfect elevator system for your project.

To learn how VDA can help you on your next project, visit our New Construction page at

New Construction Design

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Jesse Pulley

Area Manager - Dallas

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