Most of you in the automotive industry have already heard of the new HFO 1234YF refrigerant. Depending on where you are in the world you may have already come across 1234YF vehicles during service appointments. If you haven’t heard of it or seen it by now I can assure you that it is coming.
As of January 1st of this year all vehicles either manufactured or imported into the European Union could no longer have R-134a systems. The specific directive stated no refrigerants with a Global Warming Potential higher than one-hundred and fifty. This excluded R-134a immediately and left very few alternative refrigerants to be chosen. In 2015 the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency followed suit and announced a new rule to their SNAP Program called Rule 20. This rule had very similar criteria and restrictions that the EU did. The catch here was that instead of the 2017 guideline the EPA set a 2020 (2021 Model Year) deadline on new automobiles using R-134a. In both the EU and the United States 1234YF was not a mandated alternative but YF was the only viable alternative that was available and it got the auto makers on board by default. If there’s no other choices and the refrigerant you’re using today will soon be illegal what would you do?
The only other choice out there was a refrigerant that hadn’t been used in automobile air conditioning before. To use it would require a lot of research and development but there is one company who decided to spend the capital and begin implementing CO2 or R-744 into their automobiles. That company is Daimler. I plan to write an article on Daimler’s progress on mobile CO2 applications shortly but for now I will leave it as this. Daimler believes that 1234YF isn’t safe due to the increased flammability rating so instead of following the crowd they set out on their own and began developing their own R-744 applications.
I will mention that there was a stay put in place on the EPA’s SNAP rule that was to phase out R-134a by 2020. Originally, in August the courts ruled against the EPA’s new rule. Then in September Honeywell and Chemours appealed the court ruling and now we are in a limbo period waiting to see how the courts rule. All I can say here though is not to get your hopes up. HFCs are going away and going away fast. If this ruling doesn’t do it then something else will soon.
Napa, Autozone, & O’Reillys
1234YF is the future of the automobile refrigerant industry. Just like back in 1992 when R-12 was phased out and 134a was introduced the pace of introduction was slow, very slow. The goal was not to create a shock to the industry and not to create shortages for the vehicles that were already on the road. It was not a simple switch that could be turned from on to off. Considerations had to be taken in.
We are going through the same thing right now on 1234YF. I can almost guarantee that if you pull up a random instruction manual on a United States car made this year or even last year we will find out that the car is using a 1234YF system. To save everyone the trouble though I found a listing on Chemour’s website that lists all of the new cars that are using YF refrigerant. You’d be surprised of the amount of vehicles on there. Ford, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, Chrysler, so on and so on. There’s no avoiding it folks.
The reason you may not have heard much about YF yet is that these cars are so new that not a lot of them are breaking and the ones that do break are still under warranty. That means that only the car dealerships and their service shops are seeing 1234YF repairs. Give it some more time though and in a couple more years when the crunch really starts to be applied to 134a we will begin to see 1234YF stocked at all of your service garages rather they are dealerships or a Bubba’s Repair Shop off a dirt road.
The big auto parts chains are already stepping up to the plate today and have begun stocking 1234YF cans and cylinders on their shelves and on their online stores. It was such a big deal that Honeywell even took the time to write about Napa’s announcement to stock 1234YF on their shelves. O’reillys and Auto-zone are all stocking 1234yf on their websites and in some stores as well. These companies know whats coming. They are getting their names out there and their pages indexed by all of the search engines. There is a wave of demand coming and it’s going to be here in just a few years.
Honeywell and Chemours are doing their part to increase production so that when the demand does come for YF they can keep up. Earlier this year Honeywell opened up their three-hundred million dollar HFO manufacturing plant in Louisiana. The other YF manufacturer, Chemours, is working on their own plant in Corpus Christi, Texas. Together these two plants should cover the demand of the United States and even those outside of the country.
One word of caution though when you do come across a 1234YF unit and it needs additional refrigerant let me warn you right now. The price is high, very high. A typical thirty pound cylinder of R-134a could be anywhere from one-hundred to one-hundred and fifty dollars depending on the time of the year. A ten pound cylinder of YF refrigerant is going to cost your around seven-hundred dollars. If you couple that with having to pay a dealership markup on it you are look at one expensive recharge. It’s hard to say rather this price will come down or not when things get kicked into high gear. Time will tell.