Joe Wilssens via WPD
DaimlerChrysler Chairman Juergen Schrempp, left, and Thomas Weber, DaimlerChrysler's head of research, show off the fish-inspired diesel concept car at the company's "Impact on America" event in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday.
updated 6/7/2005 3:29:47 PM ET 2005-06-07T19:29:47

DaimlerChrysler on Tuesday unveiled a diesel concept car that gets more than 70 miles per gallon, reduces some pollutants by 80 percent, seats four and looks like something that popped out of a Caribbean reef — only magnified.

The company attributed the high mileage and lower emissions to new technology and an aerodynamic design based on the biology of a boxfish.

The fully functional car was on display at a company technology exhibit in Washington, D.C. DaimlerChrysler said it had no plans to mass produce the vehicle, but that some of the technology would show up in future vehicles.

In a statement, DaimlerChrysler said its engineers "for the first time looked for a specific example in nature which not only approximates to the idea of an aerodynamic, safe, comfortable and environmentally compatible car in terms of details, but as a formal and structural whole."

Stronger, lighter frame
With the help of biologists, the engineers settled on the boxfish, a cube-shaped, tropical fish whose anatomical structure was used to design a vehicle body with a wind drag coefficient of just 0.06 in the wind tunnel.

The boxfish, the company said, "is also a prime example of rigidity and light weight. Its skin consists of numerous hexagonal, bony plates which provide maximum strength with minimal weight and effectively protect the animal from injury."

DaimlerChrysler researchers used those principles to design external door panels that are 40 percent more rigid than conventional designs. Designing an entire body around those principles, DaimlerChrysler said, would reduce total weight by one third "with undiminished strength and crash safety."

84 mpg on highway
The low drag and lightweight components are key reasons for the fact that the 140 horsepower concept car gets 20 percent better mileage than other diesels of its size, DaimlerChrysler said.

Combined city/highway driving delivers about 70 mpg, DaimlerChrysler said, while highway driving at 55 mph gets around 84 mpg.

The 140 horsepower DaimlerChrysler diesel concept car can seat four.

The vehicle also uses a new diesel filter technology that reduces smog-causing nitrogen oxide emissions by up to 80 percent, the company said. A mixture based on animal urine is sprayed into the exhaust system, neutralizing the nitrogen oxides into harmless nitrogen and water.

European automakers have long touted diesel engines, which get 30 percent better fuel economy and emit 20 percent less carbon dioxide than comparable gasoline engines.

But diesel's biggest hurdles in the United States have been the smog-forming nitrogen oxides and the perception that diesel engines are noisy and smoky.

Volkswagen and DaimlerChrysler have been trying to reintroduce diesels to Americans, showcasing engines that are much quieter and less polluting than predecessors.

A diesel-powered Jeep Liberty is available as is the Mercedes E 320 CDI diesel sedan. Volkswagen sells Beetle, Golf and Jetta diesel models.

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