What Happened To The SMART Tire Company From Shark Tank Season 13?

The total number of tires produced worldwide every year is beyond staggering. Some sources peg it at around two billion, while a Smithers survey claims 2.35 billion were made in 2021. As many as six billion automotive tires are reportedly rolling down the road on any given day.

The Tire Industry Project recently reported one billion tires go bad yearly, and as many as four billion end-of-life tires (ELTs) are sitting in dumps and landfills globally. It's clear that an alternative concept to the standard rubber vehicle conveyance is needed.

Brian Yennie and Earl Cole, entrepreneurs and founders of The Shape Memory Alloy Radial Technology (SMART) Tire Company, appeared on "Shark Tank" back in January 2022, intent on "reimagining the wheel, by reinventing the tire." Their replacement concept was based on the technology used by NASA to build tires for rovers sent to both the Moon and Mars.

While the "sharks" liked the idea, they weren't so enamored with Yennie and Cole's overall pitch because they couldn't satisfactorily explain the business model's functionality. They really didn't like the fact that each set of tires would cost $2,500 to $3,500, a price range most consumers would likely balk at. Not a single shark invested in their company.

Fast forward to the present day. The SMART Tire Company still exists, and continues to look for investors. According to its crowdfunding page (an investment strategy the sharks had an issue with), it still remains four million dollars away from reaching its goal.

Round and around they go

The company's big ticket item is a super-elastic car tire made from a special nickel-titanium material called Nitinol. Known as a shape memory alloy (SMA), the metal mimics the elasticity of rubber but is as strong as titanium. Through molecular-level phase transitions, the "tire" can expand and contract rapidly to survive extreme deformation, then pop back to its original shape without losing integrity.

It will be lighter than conventional tires because it won't need an inner frame to support the assembly. Plus, the tire will never require air (which all current pneumatically inflated tires need), and here's the icing atop the proverbial cake — it will never go flat. 

It won't look exactly like the funky NASA rover wheels, though. Instead, SMART's products will be wrapped in treads and sidewalls made from a special rubber and polymer material it claims will last "much longer" than standard rubber, and the metal mesh will never touch the ground directly. All the rubber is re-treadable, so it can be replaced when worn out. The sidewalls are needed not just for looks, but also to keep road debris from gunking up the tire.

Although the space-age car tire still isn't ready for prime time, it's not the only card up SMART's sleeve. The company's first commercial product will be an airless bicycle tire called METL, based on the same technology. These wheels should be available to order by the end of 2023, and will cost between $100 and $150.