Chinese industry gets latest updates on MAC

By team, Nov 26, 2008, 15:19 6 minute reading

At a high-level workshop organised by Chinese authorities and UNEP in Shanghai, Chinese Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) experts got a clear picture on the state of play for CO2 and other alternative refrigerants. The efficiency of various options, flammability and safety concerns were widely discussed.

The meeting on 24-25 November in Shanghai allowed Chinese experts in the field of vehicle air conditioning to exchange views and gain new insights into next-generation refrigerant options to replace currently used HFCs. The event attracted participants from the Chinese automotive industry, high-level representatives from Chinese ministries, the UN, the European Commission, California, as well as system and component suppliers from around the world, research institutes and global car manufacturers. All key players in the Chinese MAC market were present, following with high interest the presentations and engaging in lively discussions about what technologies are available for the Chinese car industry to decide for a next-generation refrigerant, and which technical, legal, and economic factors could influence their choice. Of special interest for the Chinese industry are new system developments, including hybrids and fuel cells, the rate of refrigerant leakage, energy efficiency, investment costs for new technologies, and potential financial support under the frame of Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) or other financing options.

So far, R134a is the refrigerant of choice in China, after all CFC production plants were closed down in June 2007. Currently, there are 11 manufacturers of MAC in China, with investments in the order of €300-500 million.

The Presentations

Policy & NGO

UNEP: In his opening speech, Rajendra Shende from UNEP highlighted the need to reduce the impact to global warming from th use of refrigerants in China. Concerning the vehicle sector, at present the country is producing 9.5 million cars per year, most of them already including MAC as a serial feature. With 1.2 gigatonnes of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions coming from MAC alone, and 2 million deaths resulting from deteriorating air quality each year, Shende welcomed the workshop as an opportunity to pave the way for initiatives involving policy, industry, and research institutes in China.

CARB & EU: The California Air Resources Board presented the several challenges and opportunities that the rising emissions from MAC represent for California. CARB is adopting a ¨cradle to grave¨ approach to reduce emissions from Mobile air conditioning. Some restrictions to the current R134a, such as the use of do-it-yourself refrigerant cans, are already under discussion.  At the same time, further research to support future rulemaking is underway. The agency also gave an update on the pending waiver request needed for the timely enforcement of first-ever GHG emission standards in the automotive sector, where progress is expected in early 2009. On the other hand, The European Commission insisted that in 2011 a review of the MAC Directive (2006/40/EC), currently mandating refrigerants with a GWP below 150 as from 2011 on, is due. This will examine the possible extension of the Directive to buses and trucks. Before that, the EU will focus on establishing minimum efficiency rules for MAC systems.

Greenpeace: Calling natural refrigerants the “ultimate solution”, Paula Tejon , Business advisor at Greenpeace, made clear that 1234yf is not the best available technology. The fluid would be less efficient than R134a systems, extremely flammable, according to Honeywell's Material Safety Data Sheet, with accompanying hazardous substances released, and not economically sensible looking at a 10 times higher refrigerant cost compared to 134a. CO2, on the contrary, would avoid mid- to long-term legislative risks for China, attract foreign investment or financial aid through CDM or demonstration projects, accelerate technical innovation, lead to competitive advantages, and help China to raise its international profile on climate change. Greenpeace prepared a position paper regarding the choice of MAC technology, which was distributed to participants together with the conference material.


A wide range of presentations focused mainly on two most likely alternatives as a choice for future MAC worldwide: the natural refrigerant CO2 and the chemical fluid 1234yf. R744 was represented strongly by major players in the global MAC industry and CO2 system development.

Shecco: The marketing & communication consultancy for climate friendly technologies updated on general market trends for MAC worldwide. R744 MAC would offer opportunities for Chinese companies to access attractive system and compressor markets, with the option to benefit from emission credits under the CDM or the Kyoto Protocol. Shecco specifically highlighted challenges in the current refrigerant choice, where discussions have now narrowed down to CO2 or HFO-1234yf as possible alternatives. Shecco presented a video showing flammability test results for 1234yf, which was broadcasted on German TV last month.

OBRIST Engineering: The Austrian CO2 engineering expert presented its own flammability results for HFO-1234yf, conducted earlier this year. At 600°C, 800°C and 970°C, the chemical ignited almost instantly, leading to large engine fires in case of an accident. Of special concern during the refrigerant’s burning would be highly toxic decomposition products, namely carbonyl fluoride and hydrogen fluoride. Advocating the use of naturally occurring CO2, OBRIST urged all participants to decide for a refrigerant with well-understood properties and no consequences for the environment and human safety. Moreover, R744 would be the most efficient solution to heat hybrid vehicles where waste heat from the engine does not deliver the required heating for the passenger cabin.

SINTEF: The Norwegian research institute gave an overview over current global MAC emissions, concluding that R134a is no sustainable solution in any part of the world. Updating on latest efficiency improvements and the life cycle climate performance (LCCP) for CO2 systems, SINTEF also shed light on the economic viability of R744 MAC, citing a wide range of test results from all parts of the world as a proof for lower fuel consumption at increased cooling capacity. A LCCP analysis for China had found that fuel consumption could be reduced by 32-40%, compared to R134a. This would be especially beneficial from an emissions trading point of view, of interest in emerging economies, including China and India.

Shrieve: The global supplier of lubricants has increased its presence in China with a new office in Shanghai. Shrieve, having already developed lubricants suitable for all R744 systems, updated the Chinese audience on miscibility, viscosity, and lubricity properties in combination with CO2 and 1234yf.

Egelhof: The expansion valves supplier spoke about latest developments for CO2 MAC solutions. Based on three different valve generations developed since 2004, Egelhof delivered 500 samples of its 3rd generation valve technology to OEMs. Life time tests in more than 30 vehicles have not resulted in any complaints, confirming the robust and reliable design. Egelhof is now preparing for hybrid-electric vehicles using R744.

Other presentations included car makers, representatives from academia and suppliers. Although speaking on behalf of a group of OEMs investigating 1234yf, Roberto Monforte, from Fiat, made clear that: “the game is not over yet for CO2, also for Fiat, we are evaluating all options”. System manufacturer Denso presented a new ejector technology for the cool box, leading to performance improvements of up to 15%. The company confirmed that the ejector would work better with CO2 than with 1234yf, due to the lower pressure drop. On its part, India’s leading vehicle manufacturer Tata told the audience that it is evaluating both refrigerant options. According to Tata, even though there is legislation in place to ban the current refrigerant, India’s decision for the next refrigerant will be more technology than policy driven.


By team (@r744)

Nov 26, 2008, 15:19

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