Kone to Launch More Energy-efficient Elevators

Finland’s Kone, which makes elevators and escalators, announced a new line of elevators yesterday that will use LEDs and regenerative braking to cut power use, targeting a 50 percent reduction in its elevators’ energy use by 2010. The first of the new elevators, due out next year, are expected to reduce energy consumption by 30 percent compared to Kone’s current models.

The new elevators will use the company’s existing EcoDisc hoisting system, a permanent magnet synchronous hoisting machine that Kone claims uses 70 percent less energy than a hydraulic drive and 50 percent less than a traction drive.

Buildings account for about 40 percent of the world’s energy needs, according to Kone, and elevators, up to 10 percent of a building’s energy consumption. And according to a report by investment group Good Energies, constructing a green building costs on average less than 2 percent over a traditional building. The company’s new elevators, for which Kone did not release pricing info, could end up attracting attention in the U.S., with President-elect Barack Obama earlier this month announcing plans to seek energy efficiency upgrades for federal and public school buildings.

Kone said its regenerative braking system can recover excess energy from the elevator for use in building lighting or other applications. A similar system is being tested on the South Korean subway system, using ultracapacitors from San Diego’s Maxwell Technologies (s MXWL).

The elevator system can recover up to 25 percent of the total energy used, according to Kone, with the counterweight or elevator car becoming the motor, and the the EcoDisc hoisting system becoming a generator and converting the power into current. But Kone has more up its sleeve than just regenerative braking and energy-efficient LED lighting. The elevator could become one big smart appliance, using a standby mode for the lights and fan, as well as corridor illumination control.

The standby mode switches off the lights and the fan in the elevator after the last use and after a programmed time, reducing heat in the car and the amount of cooling needed in warm weather. With corridor illumination control, the system could be set up to automatically light up the floor where the elevator is stopping, cutting down on overall energy use in the building.