Otis continues to build on the technology of its bestselling Gen2 elevator.

by Ricardo Muñoz

When Otis introduced the machine-room-less (MRL) Gen2® elevator in early 2000, it featured something entirely new: belts in place of steel cables — an innovation that allowed Otis engineers to create an efficient, compact machine that would fit easily inside the hoistway. The Gen2 elevator became an immediate success, with customers embracing its energy efficiency; space-saving design; and smooth, quiet ride.

Since, Otis has continued to evolve the Gen2 system, incorporating new features to meet the changing needs of customers and passengers in an increasingly digital world. This continuous innovation has helped fuel sales, which surpassed 1 million units in 2020, making the Gen2 the bestselling elevator in Otis’ 167-year history. Now, as the company celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Gen2 launch, it’s a good time to revisit the story behind its development: a drama-filled epic and the elevator industry’s version of the space race of the 1960s.

The idea of eliminating the machine room emerged in the 1990s during a time of intense competition and rapid innovation in the elevator industry. Until that time, elevator installations required a room to house the machine that drives the elevator, along with the controller, drive and other equipment. Eliminating that room would give architects greater design freedom, reduce “roof pollution,” cut construction costs and increase rentable space for building owners. The first MRL elevator was introduced in 1996, and it was against this backdrop that a team of Otis engineers from around the world convened in Connecticut to brainstorm concepts for a new elevator. From this gathering, the idea of using flexible, steel-reinforced polyurethane belts emerged.