The SMART Tire Company, in partnership with NASA, is in the process of developing bike tires that are completely flat-proof. That’s right, the same innovative, airless tires that help Martian Rovers navigate the Red Planet could also be part of your bike commute to work.
The shape memory alloy SMART airless tires was made with a material called Nitinol, which is a combination of nickel and titanium. The tires are both incredibly strong and flexible, the material is actually able to rearrange its molecular structure in response to stress, rather than stretching chemical bonds. They were originally created to be used on NASA’s lunar and Mars missions, but it’s getting its first commercial application through SMART’s new bicycle tire called METL.
The tires themselves won’t be ‘ultralight’, but their weight will be comparable to that of gravel, mountain, and e-bikes. To allow the tires to grip the ground, they’re built with a tread around the alloy made from Polyeurethanium (SMART’s name for a rubber-like material). Though that tread will wear away more over time, SMART airless tires claim that the tire will produce less waste and need to be disposed of less frequently than standard rubber tires.
According to Fast Company, SMART is also in the process of developing car-sized tires using the same technology, but the regulatory requirements for bikes are lower than that of cars so they’ll be able to get the bike tire technology to the market much quicker. In their tests thus far, however, they were able to show that one single car tire can withstand and support 20,000 pounds of weight.
Working alongside Felt Bikes, who provides bikes for research and innovation, SMART anticipates their first METL bicycle wheels to be available to the public in 2022. They’ve also partnered with the scooter company Spin in order to begin work on developing their memory alloy tires for e-scooters.