Air Springs: Bet You Didn’t Know

Well, not exactly something you probably think about

By Gary S. Vasilash

Consider the tires on your vehicle. Even though that car or light truck weighs at least a couple thousand pounds, there is a tube of rubber (and other materials) that is full of air holding it up.

Air.

Think about it: What is a flat tire but the absence of air.

One of the leading tire manufacturers is Firestone.

So it knows a lot about creating automotive air-holding objects for purposes of improved ride and handling.

Turns out that the company holds the first patent in the world for air springs. And it has been producing them for some 75 years.

An air spring doesn’t look like what you think about when you think “spring.” No, it isn’t a rubber spiral full of air.

Rather, it is more like a cylinder.

Air springs provide better control of comfort and vehicle leveling. And to the point of leveling: they’re usually found on trucks due to the heavy loads that they sometimes carry.

Here’s another place where they have applicability: electric vehicles.

Reason: The battery packs are heavy.

In a Tesla Model 3 the battery weighs over 1,000 pounds. And as EVs get bigger, so do the batteries, so does the challenge of ride and handling.

So the folks at Firestone Industrial Products, which make air springs (among other things), are expanding the production capacity of the factory Williamsburg, Kentucky,  where the springs are manufactured. It is investing $51 million in the effort.

The rationale: “With the increase in vehicle electrification, Firestone air suspension systems are in high demand among the most innovative and forward-thinking original equipment manufacturers globally “Firestone air suspensions are optimally designed with electric vehicles in mind. Compared to traditional coil spring suspensions, our air suspensions are designed to help improve the handling and comfort of heavier electric vehicles and can even help improve EV range by lowering the vehicle to help improve aerodynamics. Advanced air suspensions are increasingly a ‘must-have’ technology on premium electric vehicles, and Firestone is committed to maintaining its leadership in this exciting and important market.”–Emily Poladian, president, Firestone Industrial Products.

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