Good point about regulatory issues. I've been thinking a lot about working on standards committees and whatnot as they actually have influence and many standards/regulations/codes are bad.
Using waste streams is one of the more basic efficiency engineering approaches, and at this point I think if large gains were to be had from those, we'd have them already.
As for condensing CO2, there are tons of ideas along those lines, but I'm not sure carbon capture is worthwhile. I'd need to see more economic analysis of those ideas, or better yet, test implementations. That's more or less my point. There are a ton of ideas, many of which could work technologically, but which would work economically/socially/etc. as well?
Let's go back to biological systems. Even assuming that most people driving is a good idea (I don't assume this), cars are somewhat irrational for that purpose. You can cut down drag (and consequently increase efficiency) a lot with relatively basic (and well known) modifications, e.g., boat tailing. It seems to me that cars aren't built that way in the first place because even though people say they want fuel economy, etc., cars built that way won't sell.
There used to be a really interesting interview along those lines with Bob Lutz (a well known car company executive) here, but it seems to have since gone offline. Here's what I have quoted in my notes:
AlixPartners: I would love to hear your point of view on design. Is it becoming even more important or not?
Bob Lutz: If you look at the [auto] companies that are really successful today, they are heavily design-focused.
In an era of levelness in almost everything else—fuel consumption, safety (which is all mandated anyway), cost, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera—the one thing that sticks out that can give you a huge competitive advantage is design.
AlixPartners: There's always a trade-off between the design side and the engineer. What are some of the key lessons you might want to pass on about that give and take?
Bob Lutz: Well, my key lesson learned, and I pass on to anybody who is in any position of responsibility in the automobile business, is if you look at the automobile as a collection of rational traits, like fuel economy, shoulder room, elbow room, hip room, rear H-point to dash, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera--and you get all that down on paper and the car is totally defined dimensionally, and then you hand it to the designers and say, “Put a wrapper on this, please,” you're going to get a car that meets every rational, stated desire on the part of a potential customer—but nobody's going to buy it! Because it is a fundamental mistake to look at cars and their attributes in a rational way.
We're all rational people. but looking at cars as fulfilling rational needs and then designing to that is about as smart as designing men's wristwatches for function only. They're just not going to sell.
And it's the same with cars. Tumblehome, side sloping in, fast windshield, roof height—[it was usually a] struggle to get what the designers wanted, in terms of not having a very stiff-looking car. And [the engineers would often] say, “Well, but what you're doing is it's going to deteriorate head swing lateral [if we] go down another half inch in roof height.”
And I would say, “Have you ever seen people in a showroom with tape measures, where the husband and wife are in there measuring and finally one of them says, ‘You know honey, this Chevrolet has a half inch less [room] than the Toyota Camry we saw before. Let's go buy it.’”
That's just not the way people behave. People won't even be in the showroom unless the car fascinates them visually from ads or as seen on television or seen in the street, or whatever.