The G1 Tower (pictured here) is currently under construction in Japan, and Hitachi's just announced it'll be completed in April. When finished, it'll rear some 700 feet above HitachinakaCity, making it the tallest such research facility ever made. That'll let Hitachi test the world's fastest elevator--with a top speed of over 3,500 feet per minute (about 40 mph), as well as the world's largest high-speed cargo elevator, capable of carrying five-tons and running at a speed of nearly 2,000 feet per minute.
That's not all--there will also be experiments on controlling vibration in high-speed elevators, air-pressure systems that balance out changes in pressure caused by the movement of the cars in the shafts and lots of other science and engineering. The G1 tower will replace a 300-foot tower that dates back to 1967, and this will of course enhance the kind of high-speed elevator product Hitachi can create.
Why's this important though--elevators are basic technology that just works, right? That's true, if you're talking about the kind of ride you had in a typical elevator today. But the engineering issues faced in constructing elevators inside super-buildings like the Burj Khalifa, or the new towers being constructed at the World Trade Center, are immense. Getting people and freight from basement level to the higher floors speedily and in comfort is a nightmare in working out car scheduling, let alone the issues caused by the cars themselves moving at thousands of feet per second inside a closed concrete shaft--making them act like air pistons. There's also an ecological angle to think about: Traditional elevators are horribly eco-unfriendly, and there's clearly room to make energy savings in designing elevators for more modern skyscrapers.