According to information from the Frankfurter Rundschau, the VW Group has ordered two series of CO2 mobile air conditioning systems from a Japanese supplier for the luxury models Audi A8 and VW Phaeton. This combined with Daimler’s plans to use the natural refrigerant instead of HFO-1234yf presents serious competition for the manufacturers of the chemical refrigerant 1234yf, Honeywell and Dupont.
To address sustainability concerns, the VW Group plans to gradually equip its fleet with natural refrigerant CO2. For Volkswagen, CO2 is the preferred refrigerant in its long-term strategy because of its environmentally friendly nature.
The Volkswagen Group will have issues to completely convert the AC systems of its massive fleet to CO2 from R134a before 1 January 2017, in accordance with the EU MAC Directive. While mobile air conditioning with R744 is entirely feasible – it is currently used in several bus fleets – because of higher working pressures required by the refrigerant, systems for passenger vehicles are still in development. VW is expected to deploy HFO-1234yf in most of its models as of 2017 in an interim phase while it works to gradually convert the rest of its fleet to CO2 systems.
Greenpeace and European Parliament call for extended transitional period
Greenpeace applauded the car manufacturer for making the first concrete step towards the introduction of natural refrigerants in MAC, though suggested the action is coming far too late. Energy expert Wolfgang Lohbeck of the organisation also called on the European Commission to be more flexible in the transition period to CO2 in mobile air conditioning systems.
Some members of the European Parliament, including the chairman of the Committee on Transport, Michael Cramer, together with Matthias Groote and Michael Theurer, have a similar outlook, having called for an extended transitional period until 2019. A major concern surrounding the use of HFO-1234yf is that it releases carbonyl fluoride during combustion, which could expose drivers, passengers and emergency responders to mortal danger.