There are no tire stores or service stations on Mars. Therefore, the Mars Rover definitely can not get a flat tire. The same tire technology that NASA is using for the Fetch Rover in 2026 is in development by The SMART Tire Company back on Earth.
Auto Futures talks to SMART (Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology) Tire Company CEO, Earl Cole, about how the company plans to disrupt the tire business first for bicycles and then other vehicles
“We are still in research and development with crowdfunding at WeFunder. We are doing really well. We are one of the first and fastest to reach over a million dollars. We are still looking for Angel investors,” says Cole, a former champion on the TV reality show ‘Survivor Fiji’.
The SMART tire is completely airless and stable. It is something you can rely on. It maintains its pressure without air. The material is light and indestructible, says Cole.
The main structure of the tire consists of a specially designed Nitinol+ metal alloy of nickel and titanium that is rugged, super-elastic and returns to its original shape.
The tech comes from NASA’s Glenn Research Center, developed by Dr Santo Padula and Colin Creager, called shape memory alloy (SMA) with a spring-like structural design. The tire can withstand the uneven rocky terrain of Mars.
The SMART Tire Company came out from the NASA Start-up Studio with Cole as CEO and blockchain entrepreneur, Brian Yennie, co-founder and CTO. SMART Tire won the People’s Choice Award.
The company also has a Space Act Agreement with NASA to commercialise the technology.
“Nobody wants to have to deal with a flat tire on a bicycle. Carrying the extra material to fix a flat is heavy,” says Cole.
Mad about METL
Currently, SMART Tire has a prototype that works on a bicycle. Calvin Young, a bicyclist from Portland, Oregon, engineered the bicycle tire. Young started working on the concept while working as an engineering intern at the Glenn Research Center.
“You will not have to replace tires on your bicycle and it will last 10 years,” he explains.
In March, the company announced the METL (Martensite Elasticized Tubular Loading) tires. METL tires come in gold, silver and metallic blue, received favourable responses.
SMART has a partnership with high-end performance Felt bicycles. It is also working with mobility company SPIN. Cole imagines that in the future, bicycles will come with the METL tires.
“We have over a thousand people on the waiting list who want METL tires,” says Cole about the tires expected to reach consumers in 2022.
“Our tire is much safer than a regular bicycle tire because the metal is super-elastic. When the tire goes over rocks, gravel or a crack in the road the metal changes its structure. The molecular structure restructures and then adapts to what it’s going over. Then it returns to its original state,” he adds.
We hope we will do everything from bikes on up to 737 jets.
SMART tires are cleantech because they use less rubber and the tires last much longer. Currently, 70% of tire sales are replacements leading to billions of pounds of tire waste a year. Its proprietary long-lasting rubber-like tread, polyurethanium, will not create microplastics that get into the water and air, says Cole.
It also plan to make tires for mountain bikes, e-bikes, all-terrain vehicles, military vehicles, automobiles and beyond.
The company recently announced its first physical location will be in Cleveland, Ohio, starting this summer. The location is near the NASA Glenn Laboratory and the epicenter of the tire industry. The company expects to bring new jobs to Ohio.
“It has been hard. It is a real challenge. The tire industry is over 100 years old. It is slow to change. But, we’re disruptive. We have something that works for aerospace. We hope we will do everything from bikes on up to 737 jets.”
“We want to make it so no one ever has a flat tire ever again,” says Cole about what he hopes to be the next, great American tire company.