Big changes are on the way for the Vehicle Air Conditioning industry.
Due to environmental concerns and newly introduced EU legislation, the current vehicle Air Conditioning system gas (R134a), which has been used in all motor vehicles since the early nineties, will be phased out in the coming years.
The only new gas that meets the EU legislation and can be used with existing vehicle Air Conditioning technology, has been developed by Honeywell and Dupont and is called R1234yf.
The new EU legislation (2006/40/EC) stipulates that the GWP (Global Warming Potential) rating of vehicle Air Conditioning gas, must be below 150. R12 that was used before R134a had a GWP of 8500. R134a has a GWP of 1300 and the new gas R1234yf has a GWP of only 4!
Any newly introduced vehicle that requires new vehicle type approval after the 31st December 2012, will need to be fitted with an Air Conditioning system filled with the new gas R1234yf. The introduction of R1234yf has already been delayed (from the 1st of January 2011) due to a worldwide shortage of the gas.
There are some new model vehicles already on UK roads, fitted with the new gas which were type approved after the 1st of January 2011, but built before the new gas supply dried up.
Currently the new gas is still in very short supply, and if Honeywell / Dupont are unable to supply the motor industry the necessary quantity required for mass production, it is likely that the introduction will be further delayed.
All R1234yf services offered by Vehicools, are subject to gas availability.
Watch this space!
February 2013 update:
The motor industry has become divided over the introduction of R1234yf. A 4th SAE investigation has been launched in response to Mercedes Benz’s own test results, which they claim prove R1234yf is dangerous due to its flammability.
It has always been known that R1234yf is mildly flammable, and that any risks can be minimized by careful system design and engineering. It is worth saying that R1234yf is still less flammable than the other under bonnet fluids such as Oil, Coolant, ATF, Petrol, Diesel and brake/clutch fluids etc.
The other German car manufacturers seem likely to follow Mercedes Benz’s reluctance to use R1234yf, but all other car manufacturers from Asia, the US and Europe etc seem likely to adopt its use. The EU have stated that they intend to enforce the directive which has effectively banned the use of R134a in newly type approved vehicle’s, so at this stage, any manufacturer opposed to using R1234yf will be unable to get type approval for any of its new models.
The plot thickens!
July 2013 update:
The SAE has just published it’s findings of it’s 4th CRP (collaborative research program) into the safety and suitability of using R1234yf as an automotive air conditioning refrigerant. It has found that R1234yf is perfectly safe to use and poses no higher flammability risk than other flammable under bonnet fluids. Vehicles using R1234yf are now being registered in the UK and this will continue to grow as more and more newly type approved models are released for sale.
Mercedes are still refusing to use R1234yf on its new models, opting to continue the use of the now banned R134a. This is a breach of EU law and is being investigated by the relevant EU authorities. The French government were the 1st EU country to refuse to register any Mercedes vehicles in breach of EU law, but Mercedes took the French government to court, won the case, and are still allowed to break EU law.
January 2015 update:
As of the start of 2015, the R1234yf story is still evolving.
Lots of manufacturers are now using R1234yf. I have seen R1234yf systems fitted to Vehicles from: Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Lexus, Nissan, Subaru, MG, Ford, Renault, Citroen, Peugeot, Maserati, Tesla, Jaguar, Land Rover, Vauxhall and a few more.
(I have not seen any cars from the German manufacturers that are using R1234yf yet, but have been told that BMW are using it in their new Electric vehicles.)
The motor industry are now talking about different refrigerant blends and CO2 systems being developed, adding to the current confusion. This means that in the future we may well be dealing with 3 or 4 different system types, which will all need separate specialized machines etc.
We are now 4 years on from when the new regulations were introduced, and there is no end in sight to the industry wide uncertainty.
We will monitor the ever changing situation with interest!