The other day I was trying to find a comprehensive listing of which cars were using the newer R-1234yf HFO refrigerant. Over in Europe YF refrigerant is now the standard for all new vehicles. (In some cases R-744 is used as well.) R-134a is no longer used due to its high Global Warming Potential.
A few years back the Environmental Protection Agency issued a new SNAP Rule known as ‘Rule 20.’ This new rule stated that a lot of the most popular HFC refrigerants would no longer be acceptable in new applications. One of the refrigerants and applications listed was R-134a for all 2021 vehicle model years. This all but dictated that automakers would have to use 1234yf in all of their new vehicles.
Well, as you all know, Rule 20 by the EPA was overturned by Federal Courts. The EPA had overreached their authority and had their proposed rules thrown back in their face. Having this rule thrown out left the future of R-134a uncertain. We all knew that 134a wasn’t going to be around forever. It did have a high GWP and it did need to go… but now there was no government mandate to do so.
Most everyone thought as the years passed by auto manufacturers would begin to switch to 1234yf without a government mandate. After all, it was the cleaner option and other states such as California and New York have begun to phase down HFC refrigerants. It only made sense to protect yourself and make the switch over now.
Top Selling Cars in 2019
All that being said I was curious exactly what automakers and models of cars are now taking the HFO 1234yf refrigerant. How many of them are still holding onto the past? Since I couldn’t find an exact list I took a different approach.
I googled for a listing of the top selling cars of 2019. What I found was a listing of two-hundred cars from a website called goodcarbadcar.net. The listing had sales volume, dollars, etc. I was only interested in the ranking though. What was the number one car sold, number two, etc.
Now that I had my listing I cut it down to the top fifty and then begin going to work. My goal here was to find out what refrigerant each of these 2019 model year cars were using. Some of these were harder to find than others. In most cases I googled the year, make, model, and ‘owner’s manual.’ Usually I could find the manual and then find the refrigerant type in there.
In other cases I found the manual but the manufacturer kept the type of refrigerant a secret. In fact nearly anything to do with the air conditioning system was kept secret. The most I could find was to either ‘Check Under The Hood,’ for the refrigerant type, or to contact your dealer for maintenance questions. In these circumstances I Googled around a bit more and did my best to fill in the blanks.
The completed table can be found below. Overall, I couldn’t find the refrigerant type for eight vehicles. (If you know what they are please reach out to me and I will update the table.) But, for the others that I did find it painted a pretty clear picture of the refrigerant market today for new vehicles.
Let’s look at the facts first. For the top fifty selling cars in the United States only fifteen of them are still using R-134a. The other twenty-seven are using R-1234yf. Even if we give the missing ten cars the benefit of the doubt and state that they are all using R-134a we are still looking at over fifty percent market share of R-1234yf within the United States. Some folks will say as high as sixty or even seventy percent market share.
Even if it’s just fifty percent that is still a HUGE number and it is only going to continue to grow. Each year more and more auto manufacturers make the switch to 1234yf. You may have noticed that in the table some Makes have a mixture of R-134a and R-1234yf. This is most likely them testing the waters with YF. They want to see if everything works as it should before they go all in on YF.
This table provides us with concrete evidence that R-1234yf is taking over the automotive market. If you haven’t come across it yet then I can assure that you will soon. From what I have read the average age of a vehicle that needs an air conditioner repair is between five to six years. So, at that fifty percent market share that we have today we could be looking at half of all vehicle AC repairs being done on YF systems by the year 2025.
R-134a is going the way of R-12. In another ten or fifteen years it’s going to be rare to find an 134a vehicle and when your vehicle does take R-134a you may have to pay a pretty penny to get a recharge. (Just look at how expensive R-12 is nowadays.) The only good news here folks is that there isn’t a mandatory phase out of R-134a yet… so the prices will still stay quite low for the foreseeable future.
The big problem that a lot of end users have with 1234yf is not that it’s a new refrigerant. No, the problem is the cost. The cost of a pound of R-134a can hover between two to four dollars per pound. The cost of R-1234yf can hover between sixty to seventy dollars per pound. That’s nearly fifteen times more than the cost of R-134a.
Because of this huge cost increase there has been a rash of end users manually converting their YF systems back over to R-134a. Hell, there is even an adapter out there for it… Rather these folks like it or not R-1234yf is here to stay and with each passing year the amount of vehicles using it is growing.