Shanghai Tower (right) has what is currently the fastest lift in the world. (Photo: © zhaojiankangphoto/

Shanghai Tower (right) has what is currently the fastest lift in the world. (Photo: © zhaojiankangphoto/

Exhilaration of height


We live in a world of superlatives. Cars and trains are supposed to get ever faster, people live ever longer and skyscrapers get higher and higher. There are to be no exceptions – including lifts.

And who is in the lead? The Chinese, as is so often the case. In 2002 they inaugurated the world’s highest external lift, the Bailong lift. It can be found in the Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan with a height of 326 m. Now they are making headlines again: this year the fastest lift in the world went into operation in the 632 m Shanghai Tower in China’s financial centre.

In 45 seconds to the 95th floor

The Mitsubishi lifts rocket upwards at a breakneck 20.5 m per second – 73 km/h. Another lift in China is only slightly slower: a Hitachi lift has been travelling 20 m/s in the 530 m highest building in the city of Guangzhou, the CTF Finance Centre, since summer. It takes 45 seconds from the ground floor to the 95th floor. The lift cars are fitted with pressure equalization (which is technically feasible) to ensure this is not unpleasant for passengers.

The pace is relatively leisurely in the 830 m highest building in the world, Burj Khalifa – the ascent occurs at 10 m/s. However, in 2019 Burj Khalifa will have to yield its title as the highest building in the world – then the Jeddah Tower in the north of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia will extend over a kilometre into the sky. But this results in a new problem: up to now lift ropes had a maximum length of 500 m.

Energy consumption can be considerably reduced

However, thanks to a new Kone carbon fibre rope, a kilometre is now apparently possible. Since this rope is extremely light, the energy consumption of skyscraper lifts can be considerably reduced. Thanks to the lower rope weight, the overall mass to be moved is much lowerAufzugs - the rope makes up a significant portion of it. This is all the more the case, the higher the lift travels.

And where is it all to end? According to experts, 24 m/s is the limit. But this is not due to technical limits, but the air pressure. If a lift travelled even faster, the human body cannot adjust to the pressure on the highest floor. Despite pressure equalisation.

Bettina Heimsoeth

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