The Institute's principal work in the late 1970s related to the transportation sector. Working under a series of contracts with the U.S. Department of Energy, The Institute performed groundbreaking work on concentrating photovoltaic arrays, low cost, long-distance electric and hybrid vehicles, and multi-fuel heat engines. This work led to the inception of the Solar Car Corporation of Melbourne, Florida and Groton Connecticut. SCC went out of business in the late 1990s, a victim, like the Tucker, of being too far ahead of its time. With a capitalization of less than $10 million, SCC lacked the financial ability to combat the conjoined forces of industry and government which quickly arrayed against it, despite a vastly superior product that correctly foresaw fundamental shifts in transportation demands.
A lasting contribution which the Institute made to our transportation future was to take the science of "hypercars" and place it firmly into the public domain. The Institute did this by parading its solar-powered automobile daily through the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee, and by publishing its technological innovations in the open literature. Later attempts to patent and sequester the key technologies of solar-powered cars were defeated as a result of this contribution.
We were early pioneers of open-source, creative commons approaches to intellectual property.
Our focus is on a convergence of renewable energy, environmental building, sustainable agriculture, biological wastewater systems, community conflict resolution methodologies, holistic community planning, permaculture design, experiential education, natural capital economics, ready access to global information, and a host of emerging modalities for systemic social improvements.
Other applications coming our of the solar car research included 1 kw solar (dish) Stirling and rotary turbines; direct current-powered compact air conditioning; solar powered electric watercraft; and trough concentrator arrays for solar water heating.
From 2006 we have been participating in the emerging Sail Transport Network, returning coastal trade to wind-power with shipments of cacao, cassava starch, coffee and vanilla bean. We have now inaugurated Sail-Med, based in Greece. Have a boat you want to donate? Contact us!
We have received numerous awards and frequent recognition for our work, which has always been at the leading edge of systemic social change, but we continue to rely principally on grassroots support in the form of donations to pursue these efforts.
Circular Economies, Relocalization, Transition, or Financial Permaculture, are different names used to describe our half-century-long strategy to restructure societies based on the local production of food, energy and goods, and the local development of currency, governance and culture. We seek to increase community energy security, strengthen local economies, and to dramatically improve environmental conditions and social equity. The 21st Century will pose unprecedented challenges to human societies. Our strategy is to plan ahead.