An Ohio-based company, the SMART (Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology) Tire Company, has harnessed NASA’s rover tire technology to create a groundbreaking innovation for road bicycles and e-scooters. These innovative Metl tires, designed never to go flat, are now available through a successful Kickstarter campaign.
Developed in collaboration with NASA, the Metl tire employs a coil-spring internal structure, similar to the Lunar Terrain Vehicles used by Apollo astronauts. This innovative design ensures that the tire maintains its shape and provides ride comfort without the need for pressurized air. The key to its resilience lies in using a shape memory nickel-titanium alloy, known as NiTinol, within its internal structure. NiTinol is not only lightweight and highly flexible, making it easy to install on standard rims, but it also possesses remarkable strength. When subjected to pressure, NiTinol deforms but then effortlessly springs back to its original pre-shaped form.
These Metl tires are further protected from the elements by a translucent poly-rubber sidewall with re-treatable rubber treads. According to the SMART Tire Company, these tires are built to last the entire lifespan of a bicycle, with treads requiring replacement only every 5,000 to 8,000 miles, depending on the tread pattern.
Moreover, the company asserts that, overall, Metl tires use half the amount of rubber compared to regular pneumatic tires. However, it’s worth noting that while pneumatic tires are composed of 100 percent renewable rubber, Metl tires utilize non-renewable minerals.
The Kickstarter campaign offers various pledge options, starting at $150 for a pair of e-scooter wheels and going up to $2,300 for a set of Metl tires equipped with carbon-fiber or aluminum rims. Orders are tentatively scheduled for shipment in June 2024. Additionally, the campaign outlines that retreading these innovative tires will cost approximately $10, ensuring long-term affordability and sustainability.
These Metl tires, born out of NASA’s rover tire technology, represent a significant advancement in bicycle and e-scooter tire design. With their shape memory alloy construction and durability, these tires offer a promising solution to the perennial problem of flat tires. However, their environmental impact in comparison to traditional pneumatic tires is a subject of debate.
Nevertheless, these innovative tires have captured the imagination of Kickstarter backers, demonstrating their potential to transform the future of cycling and urban commuting.