To my way of thinking, the Honda (NYSE:HMC) Element -- that boxy-looking contraption that passes itself off as a modern SUV -- is one of the more hideous cars on the road today. To each his own, I guess. (I drive a Honda Odyssey minivan, so by no stretch of the imagination do I mean to pass myself off as either a slave to, or connoisseur of, automobile high culture.)

Recently, though, a new design has caught my attention. It is just as unpleasant to the eye as the Honda Element, if not more so. DaimlerChrysler (NYSE:DCX) has developed a prototype design and dubbed it the Bionic Car. It takes its inspiration from the Ostracion melagris, which is more commonly known as the boxfish.

But far from being just another wild-eyed idea from an industry that has taken dubious concepts and transformed them into real steel in the form of the Edsel, the Pinto, and the Pacer, I have actually found myself warming to the idea of the Boxfish car.

That's because DaimlerChrysler specifically sought out the help of Mother Nature in designing it. The team of engineers, biologists, and bionics experts studied everything from sleek-swimming dolphins to fast and powerful creatures such as sharks in search of inspiration and assistance, but they ultimately settled on the humble boxfish after determining that, in spite of its boxy shape, it was very conservative in its use of both energy and material.

In fact, when the engineers exposed the boxfish to an open-flow model to determine how efficiently it maneuvered, they found it had an almost ideal drag coefficient of 0.04.

The scientists then put the model of the boxfish to work in designing their prototype. The result is an odd-shaped car with a pronounced wedge shape, heavily scalloped sides, and a descending top sloping toward the rear.

It isn't much to look at, but it does have two very important side benefits: It is quite spacious inside, and more importantly, because it is so light -- it uses a minimal amount of material to handle a high amount of stress -- and so aerodynamic, it has been estimated by Daimler to have a range of between 70 and 84 miles per gallon.

With the success of Toyota's (NYSE:TM) less-than-attractive (in my opinion) and oddly shaped Prius -- a car that has given Ford (NYSE:F) and General Motors (NYSE:GM) fits -- Daimler might be onto something with this latest design, though it's still just a concept car.

After all, if people don't mind getting into a box-shaped car like the Element or driving something like the Prius, they are probably savvy enough to think outside the boxfish, as it were, to find the benefits of DaimlerChrysler's new design equally appealing.

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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned in this article. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.