MAC refrigerant update: Political parties & industry react

By Past Member, Dec 04, 2012, 14:00 4 minute reading

Since Daimler announced not to use HFC-1234yf in mobile air conditioning for safety reasons, the question of which refrigerant to use to comply with EU legislation from 1 January 2013 on has moved up the agenda of all major political parties in Germany and provoked a reaction by the German Bundestag. Meanwhile, automotive industry association VDA has asked for more time to find a solution, where alternative refrigerants could play a role, “also possibly again CO2”.

The question of which refrigerant to choose after a video by Daimler has cast doubt on the suitability of HFO-1234yf on safety grounds, has reached highest political levels in Germany. Individuals from all political parties have voiced their clear concerns about the substance’s safety towards automotive magazine “Autobild”. “R1234yf is absolutely inappropriate – such a madness must not be used in cars,” Anton Hofreiter from the Green Party urged the car industry, while Caren Lay from the Left Party stated that “this dangerous substance must be prohibited”, and Heinz Riesenhuber member of the Christian Democrats and former German Research Minister, stressed that “safety comes first” and that he “welcomes the decision by Daimler not to use R1234yf for now”. Other politicians joined the reigns of concerned parties, with Petra Müller from the Liberals and member of the Transport Committee, advised to “pull the plug” on 1234yf.

Member of German parliament Mr. Lutz Knopek issued an official press release, calling on the European institutions to not allow for another moratorium to continue using climate-damaging R134a. Knopek stated that R134a after 1 January 2013, even as a temporary solution would be “no option”. As a consequence for all cars still using the old refrigerant after that date the type approval should be revoked. The German car industry “has made this decision (to use 1234yf) on their own authority, and now it has to bear the consequences”, Knopek emphasized, before requesting that “potentially manufacturers will need to put out their new models without air-conditioning for a while”. Knopek also criticized that the use of the chemical would have been justified on the basis of studies never made public.

Ralf Lenkert from the Left Party has created a special sub-section on his official website to inform the German public about the chemical substance, the formation of HF, and the use of alternative refrigerants. Lenkert urges the industry to adopt CO2 as a refrigerant already proven in several bus A/C systems.

German government: CO2 proven alternative but decision rests with car industry

As a response to a Minor Interpellation by the Green Party, the German government clarified on 14 November that results from the German Federal Environment Agency UBA had shown in the past that CO2 would be a viable alternative to comply with the European MAC Directive. However, which technology would be adopted would rest with car manufacturers. Only after the risk assessment by KBA and potential replication to other vehicle models the German Bundestag would consider “potential political measures”. The response also confirms that no safety certificate by TÜV would be known to the German government.

Type approval authorities studying risks

German automotive magazine “Autobild” states that currently 10,000 vehicles in Germany have been equipped with 1234yf-based systems. The magazine urges type approval authority KBA (Kraftfahrtbundesamt) to follow Daimler’s example and recall these vehicles, but KBA’s next steps are not yet clear as the authority is undertaking a thorough safety analysis before acting. A spokesman confirmed that KBA will “undertake another investigation and take necessary steps”. As a reaction to the renewed discussion, 90% (2.676 responses) of Autobild online readers voted in favour of an immediate recall of all vehicles using R1234yf already running on German streets.

VDA announces carmakers will break EU law; CO2 a possible alternative

Meanwhile the German Association for the Automotive Industry VDA announced that the use of climate-friendly refrigerants would be delayed at least until mid-2013, the time needed to investigate the safety of 1234yf again. “We expect to need at least half a year to quantify the risks further and develop appropriate countermeasures,” Ulrich Eichhorn, VDA segment head for technology and environment told automotive magazine “Auto, Motor und Sport”. Other options to be investigated would be to modify the MAC system to accommodate for 1234yf safety risks, or to modify the refrigerant itself. Both options are likely to result in further delays and higher costs.

Eichhorn also confirmed the automotive industry will consider changing to a different refrigerant, “also possibly again CO2”.

Until then the VDA announced carmakers will continue using the climate-damaging R134a even after 1 January 2013 – a clear non-compliance with EU law after the European Commission had already granted one additional year to solve pending issues with 1234yf until 31 December 2012. Asked for the time needed to present a viable solution Eichhorn stated that the car industry would “need a reasonable solution – and for this we need time.” An official reaction by the European Commission has not been issued so far.


By Past Member

Dec 04, 2012, 14:00

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