Germany referred to Court of Justice over MAC controversy

By team, Dec 15, 2015, 13:31 2 minute reading

The European Commission has referred Germany to the European Court of Justice for its failure “to take the necessary action” against Daimler AG in the company’s lack of adherence to the EU’s mobile air conditioning (MAC) Directive.

On 10 December 2015, Germany was referred to the Court of Justice for an apparent circumvention in the application of the MAC Directive. Daimler AG, a German vehicle manufacturer, continued to use the fluorinated gas R134a in newly-built car air conditioning systems that were type-approved for use with R1234yf after January 2011. This application contravened an EU-wide ban on the use of refrigerants with a GWP higher than 150.

With a GWP of 1300, R134a is not approved for use in new vehicles. The Commission therefore asserts that:
“Germany did not take the necessary action to ensure that the vehicles were brought back in conformity with EU law by ordering Daimler AG to recall the vehicles and make the necessary technical adaptations to ensure full compliance with the MAC Directive.”

MAC dispute: another bump in a long road

The referral of Germany, the continent’s largest manufacturer of vehicles, may not come as a great surprise to many observers, as Daimler AG’s reluctance to adopt controversial refrigerant R1234yf has been long documented. Indeed, the Commission first warned Germany of potential court action in September 2014.

In continuing to use R134a, Daimler argues that it is simultaneously developing air conditioning systems for its vehicles that can use the environmentally-friendly refrigerant CO2. This favoured use of CO2 results from Daimler’s own testing of R1234yf, which it found “demonstrated that propagation leading to a vehicle fire was indeed possible”.

The outcome of those tests, conducted in 2012, reinforced Daimler’s decision not to use R1234yf and instead to invest in creating a system capable of using CO2. Furthermore, in May 2013 Germany gave Daimler permission to keep using R134a while developing alternative solutions.

In a compromise reached in October 2015, Daimler agreed to use R1234yf in the interim while continuing to manufacture systems capable of using CO2.

CO2 MAC vehicles expected in 2017

As CO2 operates at ten times the pressure of R134a, new components and system designs are required to accommodate the refrigerant. The expected energy efficiency gains of CO2 – alongside its environmentally-friendly virtues – have attracted the interest of luxury car brand Mercedes Benz, whose S- and E-Class models are expected to become the first cars equipped with the technology upon their release in 2017.

Daimler’s journey to commercialise CO2 MAC continues amidst the court referral, which could lead to heavy fines for Germany.

By team (@r744)

Dec 15, 2015, 13:31

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