In Mid January Subaru introduced the new XV and Hyundai released the i30 using using HFO-1234yf in the AC system. This was closely followed by Mazda CX and the new Kia Cee’d2.
18th April 2012 Shortage of HFO-1234yf
On April 18th 2012 the EU published a document which allowed carmakers to fill new type vehicles – “that according to Directive 2006/40/EC can only be filled with a refrigerant with a GWP<150” can revert back to using R-134a until 31-12-2012.
The decision was due to a shortage of HFO-1234yf which was expected to be resolved in the 4th quarter of this year. Some of the vehicles listed above and many other new models launched including Mercedes “B” & “S” class models were allowed to fill the systems on the production line with R134a.
15th &16Th September 2012 : EAAC
Following the European Automotive Air Conditioning Conference (EAAC) there was growing confidence that R1234 would finally be readily available to manufacturers and the aftermarket ready for the January 1st 2013 deadline set by the EU.
After 6 years of testing and development by the vehicle and the associated equipment manufacturers, all the main issues except maybe the cost of the new refrigerant looked as though had been finally resolved.
Many new models of vehicles were now ready to leave the production line with R1234 refrigerant in their systems.
5th October 2012 : Announcement in German press
Daimler, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz cars, has stated it will not be using the new HFO refrigerant R1234yf in its vehicle air conditioning systems. Instead, it says it wishes to continue using R134a.
Following its own independent safety tests, the German car and truck manufacturer has raised safety concerns with usage of the new internationally recognised refrigerant replacement for R134a.
While concerns had been raised previously – particularly in Germany – as to its “mild” flammability, the climate-friendly R1234yf was set to be introduced worldwide in the automotive industry and was previously perceived to be safe. This was determined by numerous laboratory and crash tests carried out by international vehicle manufacturers and independent institutions.
Daimler says it has carried out a series of additional tests on the new refrigerant as part of a new real-life test scenario developed in-house which goes above and beyond the legally prescribed requirements.
“In the new real-life test scenario, the refrigerant is dynamically dispersed at high pressure near to hot components of the test vehicle’s exhaust system,” says the report. “This corresponds to a serious head-on collision in which the refrigerant line is severed and the reproducible results demonstrate that refrigerant which is otherwise difficult to ignite under laboratory conditions can indeed prove to be flammable in a hot engine compartment.”
Daimler says that similar tests carried out with the current R134a refrigerant did not result in ignition.
“Due to the new findings of this study and the high safety demands at Mercedes-Benz, this chemical will not be used in its products,” says a company statement. “The company therefore wishes to continue to use the proven and safe R134a refrigerant in its vehicles. Daimler has already informed the relevant authorities of these facts and will also make the results of this investigation available to all relevant associations as well as to other vehicle manufacturers,” it says.
SAE International, the standards-setting association representing automotive engineers, says it is working with an international group of car manufacturers to investigate the formation of a new Cooperative Research Program (CRP) to investigate the safety of R1234yf.
The formation of the group is in response to Daimler’s objection to the new refrigerant on safety grounds. The CRP will technically evaluate Daimler’s test findings of flammability if vehicles were involved in head-on collisions.
This will be the second CRP that the SAE has conducted. In 2009, following a CRP sponsored by 15 global automakers including Daimler, the SAE announced “From the evaluations and test results it has been concluded that HFO1234yf can be safely accommodated through established industry practices for vehicle design, engineering, manufacturing and service.”
SAE International has hosted an organisational meeting to discuss a preliminary scope of further research and is actively soliciting OEMs to formally join the new CRP.
The European Commission has declared that the MAC directive will be fully implemented on January 1 despite the safety concerns expressed by Daimler over the car industry’s preferred R134a replacement, the refrigerant R1234yf.
The EC has restated that from January 1 2013 the refrigerant R134a will be banned in all new type-approved cars, the manufacturers being required by law to use a refrigerant with a GWP of under 150.
In a declaration, the Commission pointed to the detailed risk assessments and standardisation processes, involving all manufacturers, which concluded that the risk of the use of R1234yf was, at worst, no more flammable than other liquids used in vehicles, including gasoline.
The new EC declaration admits that it is closely following the issue and concedes that it has a responsibility to ensure the safety of the products that are on the European market but also has a duty to ensure the respect for the European law.
Given that MAC Directive will be fully enforced as of 1 January 2013, the declaration says the Commission is analysing, with the Member States’ authorities, the way forward to ensure compliance of the automotive manufacturers that have type-approved their vehicles for the use of the new gas in the respective territories.