German car manufacturer Volkswagen will opt for CO2 mobile air-conditioning (MAC) systems in another series of cars by the end of 2019 – its electric car ‘ID’ series, according to reports from German environmental journalist Joachim Wille in Frankfurter Rundschau and Klimareporter on 11 August 2018.

This is the second time Volkswagen has stated it is opting for CO2 MAC in a series of cars. In 2015 it stated it would offer CO2-based air conditioning in the Audi A8 range and in the VW Phateon.

With the notable exception of Daimler (owner of the Mercedes Benz brand), which is also committed to CO2 MAC for some vehicles, most car manufacturers have exclusively opted for HFO R1234yf as the replacement for R134a in MAC systems. The HFO has come under fire recently from the Federal German Environmental Agency (UBA), which argues that continued use of this chemical refrigerant will have an adverse effect on drinking water.

UBA President Maria Krautzberger advocates, “refraining from using fluorinated refrigerants like R1234yf” and points out that natural refrigerant-based alternatives exist such as CO2 MAC systems.

A VW spokesman told Wille that the firm’s commitment to using CO2 as the refrigerant in its new series of cars is part of a long-term strategy by the car manufacturer. A respected journalist in the environmental field, Wille has won the ‘Journalist Prize’ from the German Environmental Foundation for his work.

Daimler, which announced in 2017 that it would use the first CO2 compressors for mass-produced passenger cars, told Wille that it would increase its use of CO2 MAC. “To reach the necessary quality level, we start with a slow production ramp-up of the new air conditioning systems,” a Daimler spokesperson explained, with further car models to potentially be added later. Mercedes Benz is also using CO2 MAC in its electric vehicles. 

CO2 reversal

Wille notes that the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) is reluctant to weigh into the topic. “The discussion about refrigerants has been going on for many years, it should not be reheated now,” the VDA told him.

VDA, whose members include some of the world’s biggest car manufacturers including Audi, BMW, Daimler, Chrysler AG, Porsche and Volkswagen – previously stated in 2007 it was committed to CO2 MAC but later reversed this decision. It told Wille that the “former security issues” with R1234yf (namely its flammability and decomposition on ignition into carbonyl fluoride that can have toxic effects on human health, according to Daimler) have been “clarified”, but does still consider CO2 MAC to be an option. Daimler has been using the HFO in some car models.

Volkswagen also previously committed to CO2 MAC in 2015. “The Volkswagen Group is taking another important step towards sustainability and environmental protection by choosing CO2 as the future refrigerant for its air conditioning systems,” it stated at the time. It has not rolled out more CO2 MAC models since 2015.  

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