From the Moon to Micromobility

A close up shot of a bike tire made of the SMART tire material.

SMART Tire Company, in partnership with NASA, is developing the first-ever consumer application of NASA’s shape memory alloy (SMA) tire technology, a cutting-edge, eco-friendly tire called METL.

Originally invented by NASA’s Glenn Research Center for use on lunar and Mars rover missions in the 2000s, the SMA tire is made from advanced, lightweight materials known as NiTinol+, creating a tire that is elastic like rubber, yet strong like titanium, exhibiting perfect shape memory while never going flat.

What does this mean for micromobility?

Tires, perhaps more than any other single part of the scooter, experience a lot of wear and tear. They are also fundamental to how smooth, comfortable, and safe your ride is. Current options require tradeoffs between longer-lasting solid tires and the smoother but more maintenance and waste-intensive pneumatic tires.

However, METL tires combine the durability of solid tires with the less bumpy ride that comes with pneumatic tires. The implications of this new technology are potentially transformative, with flat and worn-out tires becoming a thing of the past.

“Shape memory alloys look promising in revolutionizing the entire terrestrial tire industry,” says Santo Padula, PhD, Materials Science Engineer at NASA, “and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

These tires are designed to outlast the vehicles they move and to do so under extreme conditions — certainly more severe than you’ll experience in any of the cities where we currently operate.

“This SMART Tire was born out of the extreme challenges NASA faces on Mars, where there are no roads, temperatures can reach -200C and tire performance is mission-critical,” according to SMART Tire’s website, which notes that METL tires could become available for bikes as early as 2022.

Improving the lifespan of our scooters and reducing waste are integral parts of our commitment to providing the best service to our customers and reducing our environmental impact. We could start seeing e-scooters in the very near future with tires that never need to be replaced.

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