It seems we go through this about every twenty years now. First we had R-12 Refrigerant for many years but it was found to cause damage to the O-Zone layer. Then we switched everyone from R-12 over to R-134a in 1994 so the O-Zone could repair itself.
Come to find out R-134a has a massive global warming potential. (It has a GWP grade of 1430) So, now it has begun again and R-134A is slowly going to go the way of R-12 The question is, what’s next?
The answer at this point in time seems to be HFO-1234YF. This new Refrigerant has a global warming potential of less than 1… that is quite the difference compared to the 1430 of R-134a. So, in theory this is now the ‘perfect’ refrigerant, that is until we find something wrong with this one.
History of 1234YF
It was developed by HoneyWell and DuPont back in the eighties but R-134A was chosen over 1234YF. In 2007 due to the demand by the European Union for a lower global warming potential refrigerant DuPont and Honeywell begin looking over 1234YF again. Even though it’s been around for nearly seven years it never really took off and it is still only really popular in Europe at this time.
Initially after development the European Union was pushing for all members to switch their manufacturing over from R-134a to the new 1234YF. It took a few years but eventually the EU announced that all new vehicles from January 2013 and on would not be allowed to have the R134a refrigerant.
It was announced in 2010 that HoneyWell and DuPont would team up to build a state of the art manufacturing facility in China. The intent was to have a surplus of supply of the new refrigerant for when the new regulations went into effect.
The problem I see with this is you have two gigantic conglomerates HoneyWell and DuPont controlling sixty, seventy, maybe even eighty percent of the production of this chemical. Can you say Monopoly?
Well, it turns out I wasn’t the only one who thought this. It was announced in October that the EU has ruled the cooperation between the two companies as anti-competitive in the EU and the world market. DuPont and HoneyWell both asked for private court hearings to argue their case but I have to say that if they win this can’t be good for the consumers. It’s never good if you have one/two companies controlling over half the industry.
There was resistance on this switch mainly from Daimler out of Germany. Daimler expressed concerns over the high pressure of 1234YF and the possibility of the refrigerant igniting in a head on collision. HoneyWell and DuPont both challenged Daimler’s assessment stating that the new refrigerant is completely safe and has passed numerous tests around the world.
On January 2013 the European Union mandated that all new vehicles CANNOT have R134a Refrigerant. At this time Daimler was still fighting the change and pushing to stay with R-134A. They filed a six month extension with the EU but it was denied by the courts and Daimler is bound by law to use 1234YF.
You would think they’d stop there but Daimler has been fighting this tooth and nail. They kept performing tests and looking for exceptions from the court. There was a head on crash tested from a vehicle where the refrigerant canister was ruptured. Refrigerant escaped near the hot exhaust but it did not ignite. This still didn’t convince Germany to switch.
In June of 2013 the EU gave Germany ten weeks to comply with the new EU law or face infringement penalties. In August Daimler announces that it’s latest tests found no safety concerns with the new Refrigerant. However, Daimler still announced that they will still be sticking with R-134a.
In January of 2014 the EU announced that they would be increasing pressure on Germany to switch and they also threatened legal proceedings. In September of 2014 the EU sent another warning to Germany with a few months to reply. Something tells me that Germany is still going to say no…
When Will it Come to America?
When do I see 1234YF coming to America? Well, truth be told it’s already started! There are a few manufacturers who are including the new refrigerant in 2013 and 2014 vehicle models. Now, this is not mainstream yet by any means and there are now laws in America saying that you HAVE to use 1234YF.
But, and this is a big but, it’s coming…. and it’s coming soon. It was announced early this fall that the Obama administration is announcing voluntary phaseout of R-134a Refrigerant across the country. Many companies voluntarily agreed to either reduce usage or to reduce productions of the HFC refrigerant. You can read more about this announcement by clicking here. There is speculation that R-134a will be banned completely in the United States in 2021.
When it comes to climate changes America is always behind the times when compared to Europe. So, I don’t see us going to the European model for at-least another five to seven years. The first steps have been announced but they always do these processes slow so as not to inconvenience the industry and consumers.
I’ll say this for now 1234YF is the refrigerant of the future… for now!