Well folks it looks like the automotive refrigerant market is going to be split into two. Today, most everybody is still using R-134a as the main refrigerant for automotive applications. If you have been working on newer cars you may have seen some vehicles with the HFO 1234YF systems. R-134a is being phased out across the world due to it’s high global warming potential of over 1,000. In the European Union R-134a was banned in the year of 2011. All new cars manufactured in Europe have to be using a refrigerant with a Global Warming Potential of less than 150.
The European Union chose the HFO 1234YF as it’s primary replacement and it’s not just Europe that is switching over to the HFO. General Motors announced that all of it’s vehicles will be switching over to 1234YF with a goal date of 2018. Chrysler announced that they would be switching over as well. Not to mention various other foreign manufactures. It seems like HoneyWell, DuPont, and the all of the major manufacturers are pushing for 1234YF. After all, it is a viable alternative to the harmful 134a being used today… or is it?
Germany Automakers Warn Against 1234YF
Remember how I said almost every automotive manufacturer is switching over to 1234YF? Well, I did say almost. The German manufacturers Daimler and now Volkswagen have declared that they will NOT be using 1234YF in any of their vehicles. Their reasoning stems from some tests that Daimler did in 2012 testing the safety of 1234YF. In two-thirds of the tests that Daimler conducted the 1234YF refrigerant ignited when the compressor ruptured and the refrigerant gas hit the hot engine. This test is designed to simulate a head on collision. When Daimler did the same tests with R-134a the refrigerant did not ignite. On top of the flammability Daimler also found that the refrigerant can emit toxic hydrogen fluoride gas when it burns. So, your car will be on fire and you’ll be choking to death. Good times…
After these tests were completed the German Transit Authority did it’s own tests but they were not able to replicate the results that Daimler had. On top of that the European Union did additional tests as well as DuPont and Honeywell. All tests came back negative. Daimler didn’t care about these other tests and claimed that they will NOT be using 1234YF in any of their vehicles. Instead, Daimler went forward on designing a CO2, or R-744, refrigerant system for their vehicles. On top of Daimler switching to CO2 it was announced this week that Volkswagen will be transitioning over to CO2 instead of 1234YF. The official article is in German, so I’ll post a small article from The Cooling Post about the announcement.
Well, with Daimler, Volkswagen, Porsche, Audi, and BMW all switching over to CO2 and the rest of the world using 1234YF we now have a split in the automotive air conditioning market. So, if you’re a mechanic and occasionally work on German cars you are now going to have to know your way around 134a systems, 1234YF systems, and CO2 systems. Obviously, this is inconvenient for everybody, but I can’t really complain as the German automakers firmly believe that they are making the right decision here. If I saw the tests that they had I would probably be pushing for CO2 as well. At the same time though, there have been hundreds of other tests that showed the refrigerant works fine. Are the German companies being stubborn, or is there legitimate concern?
The automotive air conditioning market is in a state of flux right now. 134a is banned in the European Union but still active in the US. The EU has switched over to 1234YF except for Germany who has switched to CO2. The USA is still majorly using 134a and slowly moving over to 1234YF. Asian markets are moving to 1234YF as well. The tide is with 1234YF but who knows what will happen. All it takes is one or tow bad accidents with 1234YF to prove Germany was right.