Hydraulic And Traction Elevators: What Are The Differences?

If you ever use a lift in the UK, chances are the system will either be a hydraulic or a traction lift.

Hydraulic lifts are the most common type of lift mechanism, ever since the turn of the 20th Century. They work via an electrically powered pump which forces pressurised hydraulic fluid through to a jack lifting system. The lift has a piston at its base which will push the elevator car upwards and lower it slowly to ascend.

Traction lifts differ slightly as they use steel cables that are looped around sheaves and connected to an electric motor. The sheaves are connected to a counterweight to balance the load of the elevator car whilst the traction asserted onto the steel cables allows the lift to be lowered and raised.

No matter which system is chosen, the result is the same for each lift; the lift car ascends and descends between floors. The choice of which one a company utilises usually comes down to cost, maintenance and the type of building which the elevator needs to be installed within.


  • Price

Obviously, an important factor for any business is how much each system will cost. On the whole, hydraulic elevators are cheaper compared to traction lifts to install, but struggle with costs elsewhere.

  • Efficiency

Traction lifts are costlier to install than hydraulic systems, but they are much more energy efficient, which means a company may be able to make money back in the long run. Hydraulic pumps create a force against gravity for pushing and lifting the cab up but lose a lot of this energy when the cab comes down.

  • Speed

Because of the energy loss, hydraulic elevators operate slower than their traction counterparts. They usually top out at speeds of 1 metre per second whilst traction can reach speeds of 2.5 meters per second – more than halving the time it takes to reach higher floors.

  • Space

Hydraulic lifts are preferred for smaller building spaces as they take up much less room than traction systems. Lift installers will be able to give you advice on which system they think will be the most beneficial for you depending on your available space.