Final KBA report confirms safety risk of R1234yf

By Simon Burkel, Nov 08, 2013, 16:28 3 minute reading

Germany's Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) has launched the final report on the safety of R1234yf-equipped vehicles. Based on the results of the conducted tests, the KBA clearly points out the risks related to the use of R1234yf and strongly recommends further tests. The European Commission’s Joint Research Center is organising stakeholder meetings to investigate the safety of the chemical refrigerant.

The final report by Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA) on the safety of the refrigerant R1234yf confirms the preliminary results published in August 2013.  However, the KBA does not provide final answers to the outstanding safety questions with regards to the new coolant. Even if the KBA concludes that under product liability laws, no “serious danger” exists, the final test results confirm that the refrigerant is “not hazard-free.”

High HF concentration and flammability of R1234yf confirmed in further tests

22 tests in 3 different stages were carried out by the KBA on the four vehicle models with R1234yf sold the most in Germany. The  results of the KBA stage 3 tests, already published in the prelimnary report, showed that flammability and high concentration of hydrogen fluoride (HF) was detected in one of the four cars tested, while high HF concetration, even without recognisable flames, was measured in two additional cases. 
The KBA has now published the results of further stage 3 tests. Flammability in the engine compartment as well as high concentrations of HF were detected in two cases. In two additional  cases, significant concentrations of HF were measured as well. The KBA highlights that the measured HF concentrations are critical in case a human is exposed to them and inhales these concentrations. The same tests with the refrigerant R134a showed no inflammation or formation of HF. 
R1234yf reduces safety of vehicles

During test levels 1 and 2, which are considered for the regulatory purposes, no ignition of the R1234yf refrigerant was recorded. KBA concludes that under product liability laws, no “serious danger” exists. But the KBA also points out that R1234yf would “not be without danger” and its use, therefore, would reduce the safety of vehicles. The use of the new substance would be in contradiction with the objectives of the EU to increase road safety. 
KBA strongly recommends further tests
According to the KBA, it is still not fully understood under which conditions flammability and HF exposure of R1234yf in vehicles occures. But as the occurence of such events directly leads to serious danger for the health of passengers and “first aiders,” the KBA strongly recommends further tests. Further consideration should also be given to the necessity of including the risks related to the refrigerant found by the KBA in the type-approval of vehicles and whether safety requirements of mobile airconditioners should be defined by law. 
JRC to hold a series of stakeholder meetings on R1234yf safety

The KBA has now handed the case over to the European Commission and experts from the Joint Research Center (JRC) will review the crash-tests conducted by the KBA as well as the results of the research by the automotive engineers of the SAE International. 
During the review process, the JRC will hold a series of meetings with relevant stakeholders. To this end, the European Commission has published a call for expression of interest to participate in the working group on R1234yf safety in MAC systems. Intersted parties who may provide further information useful for the process, and who would like to participate in the meetings should notify the Commission (Alexandra Sá Carvalho, by 15 November 2013. So far, three meetings have been scheduled  between November 2013 and January 2014:
  • 20 November 2013 (Brussels)
  • 11 December 2013 (Brussels)
  • 15 January 2014 (Ispra)


By Simon Burkel

Nov 08, 2013, 16:28

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