Unpressurised “airless” bike tires that use NASA technology developed for space rovers, are now going on sale to the public. Pre-orders for the product went live on 12th September 2023.
Designed for Mars
Headlining on the SMART Tire Company (STC)’s website as “Designed for Mars. Ready for Earth”, the tires “ride smoothly like pneumatic tires” according to Interesting Engineering.
The tires reduce rolling resistance, making it easier to cycle, and while they contain air, they need no air pressure.
We’re building a bicycle tire first because it allows us to build core capabilities and put an extremely cool product in people’s hands more quickly.Brian Yennie, Co-Founder of STC
The tires are revolutionary because “without pressurized air inside your tires, punctures are no longer a concern,” said STC Co-Founder Brian Yennie. “Even large tears won’t slow these tires down: you could stick a kitchen knife right through and keep on riding because it won’t affect the structural integrity of the tire.”
Employing “shape memory alloy” (SMA) technology, each METL tire is enveloped by a nickel-titanium central spring that envelops the tire like a “slinky” as is “elastic and strong like rubber.” The smart metal, “rearranges its molecular structure when you bend it, but instantly goes back to its original shape, perfectly” according to the company’s website.
Size, weight and cost
For this special launch, the road/gravel tires will be available in size options of 700 x 32c, 35c, and 38c. The manufacturer’s specification says they will weigh similar to the average for equivalent-sized pneumantic tires – around 450 grams (16 oz) for the 35c model.
Kickstarter pledges of US$500 will be rewarded with a set of two tires. Purchasers can also upgrade to a full aluminum or carbon fiber Metl-clad set for $1,300 and $2,300, respectively.
Delivery is expected next June. The Kickstarter campaign has raised over four times its target from 25 backers within just five days of a limited month-long campaign.
This airless tire made for NASA’s Mars rovers could revolutionize tires on Earth.— GiGadgets (@gigadgets_) July 24, 2022
It uses the shape memory alloy radial technology (SMART) which was first developed by NASA for future planetary exploration rovers. #gigadgets #nasa #tires #bicyclelife #bicyclelove pic.twitter.com/lkuUeA7oVo
A greener choice?
The tires won innovation honours in two categories at 2023’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, including Sustainability, Eco-design and Smart Energy. Using half as much rubber as a traditional tire and designed to last a lifetime, (apart from re-treading which should cost around $10) the tires are seen as a positive disruption to the bike tire market.
The USA alone discards over 246 million waste rubber tires per year. 75 percent of the tire industry’s earnings, according to SMART, come from replacement tires.