What’s the difference between hydraulic and electromechanical gates?

electric gate

If you’ve already taken a quick look around our site, you may have seen us refer to electromechanical and hydromechanical gate kits before. Essentially, they’re two different forms of gate automation – ones that you’ll need to make a choice between when you’re finalising your decision for your own electric gate

As with so many of these sorts of things though, it’s not always a straightforward decision though, since neither one is objectively better than the other. Your choice will depend on the application you intend to use it for, how intensively it’ll be used, and the environment in which it’ll be installed. So, here’s what you need to know!

The basics of hydraulic gates

As the name suggests, hydraulic gates use systems of hydraulic fluids and high pressure tubing to generate significant amounts of power. The use of fluids means that there are fewer moving parts, so they endure less casual wear and tear and require less maintenance as a result.

This combination of powerful operation and minimal wear and tear usually makes hydraulic gates the go-to option for commercial premises, as the constant passage of heavy vehicles often means that the gates undergo more or less continuous cycles throughout the majority of the day.

The powerful nature of hydraulic gates also means they’re the only available option for exceptionally powerful automatic gates , with leaf weights of more than 300kg.

Non-locking capabilities

Notably, hydraulic gates can be specified with non-locking capabilities. That means that even when they’re not in active operation, they’re still not locked into place by the hydraulics. While it’s obviously not an ideal solution for every environment, it is still a useful measure for protecting them against accidental damage, as they’ll have a bit of give in them, allowing them to have a higher tolerance for unexpected sudden impacts (for example, a vehicle reversing into them ).

Close boarded gates

Hydraulic motors are also the only viable option for closed-boarded gates, which generally require a 230V hydraulic kit. In case you need a quick refresher, closed-boarded is the term used in the industry for gates with composite or timber infills, so you can’t see right through them like you normally would with iron gates. So, why are hydraulics necessary? Well, it’s basically because these types of gates are more sensitive to wind-resistance.

So, let’s break this down a little further. It’s essentially all a question of safety – all closed-boarded gates are fitted with safety systems that cause them to stop and reverse whenever the sensor detects that the gate has made physical contact with something. It’s a system designed to prevent damage to property, vehicles, and most importantly, actual harm to people.

Now, because closed-boarded gates aren’t letting as much air pass through them, even relatively small amounts of wind resistance will exert greater force, and will often end up triggering this safety feature. As we’re sure we don’t need to tell you, it’s deeply annoying to be waiting in your car and watching your gate keep closing on you because it’s slightly breezy out.

230V hydraulic kits, on the other hand, can help mitigate against this kind of resistance, without compromising the core function of the gates’ safety features.

Types of available hydraulic gate motors

  • Underground gate kits? Yes
  • Sliding gate kits? Yes
  • Gate-mounted arms? Yes
  • Articulated arms? No

Note #1: Hydraulic gate mounted arms are often referred to as rams

Note #2: There are no articulated hydraulic gate arms, as these are only available in electromechanical versions

Hydraulic gates – at a glance


  • Useful for large, heavy gates – especially in commercial environments
  • Powerful and low-maintenance
  • Particularly resilient against cold weather
  • Available with non-locking capabilities to protect the gate integrity
  • Perfect for closed-boarded gates

It’s worth remembering:

  • On the rare occasions they are damaged, they can be complex to repair
  • They’re more expensive than their electromechanical counterparts
  • Electromechanical gates are often a better choice for private homeowners, due to their lower costs (plus, their lower power is often perfectly sufficient for residential needs)

The essentials of electromechanical gates

As the name suggests, electromechanical gates are powered by the mains supply of your home or business. There are several main types to choose from, including worm-driven (or ‘screw type’) swing gates, barrier arms, and sliding operators.

Now, let’s start with a common misconception – in years gone by, you might have heard their reliability being unfavourably compared to that of hydraulic gates, but if so, don’t worry! Modern electromechanical gates are just as reliable as their hydraulic counterparts, just not quite as powerful. Happily though, they often don’t need to be – they’re better suited to less intensive residential applications anyway, especially since they’re available at a lower cost.

As well as being particularly durable and reliable for private driveways, some also provide the option to install a backup battery that trickle-charges from the main supply. (So that means even when there’s an outage on the National Grid, you can still count on the gates to operate – very useful if you still need to access or exit the property!)

Electromechanical motors are typically the first choice for automating open-patterned iron gates (i.e. ones you can see through) – generally, these motors are either 24V or 230V. However, if you’d like you can specify hydraulic motors in the same voltage instead.

Types of available electromechanical gate motors

  • Underground gate kits? Yes
  • Sliding gate kits? Yes
  • Gate-mounted arms? Yes
  • Articulated arms? Yes

Electromechanical gates – at a glance


  • Highly versatile, with minimal space requirements
  • Silent operation
  • Durable and long-lasting, with periodic maintenance
  • Battery backup options available in case of power outages
  • Lower cost than hydraulic gates
  • Can be used on almost any kind of gate, with only a few exceptions

It’s worth remembering:

  • They’re best suited for private driveways and residential applications
  • More moving components means they’re slightly more vulnerable to wear and tear
  • There are no non-locking options

So, that’s all the basics covered! If you’ve still got questions, or you need any guidance or advice in finalising any of your decisions, that’s exactly where we can help at Gate Auto.

We have over 30 years in supplying and fitting high-quality gate automation, we provide a wide range of electric gate kits and garage door openers alongside an array of accessories to ensure you get the most out of your investment. Feel free to browse them right here on our site, or give us a call on 01282 677300!