From the “cool ideas” sement of the net: Toshiba announced a mag-lev elevator design that is supposed to be online in some Tokyo buildings in 2008.
Mag-lev technology (including the concept of mag-drive) is an idea that I think we are just starting to find applications for. Everyone is familiar with the mag-lev train concept, where the train is suspended off the track by powerful magnetic forces, thus reducing a major amount of friction. A great benefit of that is potential high speeds and a very smooth ride.
Well, Toshiba has applied the same concepts to elevators. This article, while very light on technical details, does allow one to imagine the general design and benefits. Without the long, very heavy cable, the efficiency of the elevator will be greatly increased. There will be practically no moving parts without the cable lift system as well. I’d be curious to find-out how the design works-around power failures. There must be some kind of physical contact made to prevent the elevator car from dropping when the magnetic field is lost. I’m guessing some kind of brake that would fling-out from the sides of the car to the shaft walls, but who knows.