By on February 20, 2013

Daimler is dead set against using the new refrigerant HFO-1234yf, even if it is forced down it throat. The EU makes it a must in all news cars, but Daimler says it can fry and kill you. Now, Daimler can get burned big-time. Without HFO-1234yf, its new S-Class will be illegal, but “using HFO-1234yf is out of the question,” a Daimler spokesman told Automobilwoche [sub].

The new S-Class will be launched this summer in Europe. Germany’s Kraftfahrtbundesamt has given type approval only with the EU-mandated HFO-1234yf. Without the explosive refrigerant, the car would be illegal anywhere in Europe.

In 2012, the refrigerant ignited during a crash test at Daimler. Daimler recalled all B-Class and A-Class cars sold with the refrigerant, and converted the air conditioner.

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40 Comments on “Explosive Refrigerant Threatens To Blow Up S-Class Launch...”


  • avatar
    Easton

    I would have to side with Mercedes on this one if they’ve proven the refrigerant explosive.

  • avatar
    CobraJet

    Surprise! A flammable gas used in an automobile can cause problems. Funny the makers of this refrigerant didn’t know that. What is the first thing that happens when you are in a frontal crash? The radiator bursts and antifreeze escapes. At the same time, the AC condenser bursts and all AC refrigerant is discharged. With this new stuff, it will also go boom.

    • 0 avatar
      icemilkcoffee

      One would think carmakers have lots of experience with keeping flammable liquids safe.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Gasoline doesn’t have to be routed through heat exchangers that need to be exposed to airflow, nor is it routed through passages in the car’s HVAC system, nor does gasoline release necrosis causing, corrosive hydrogen fluoride when it burns. One should try to think more and better.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    Can you buy R134a in Europe over the counter the way you can in the US? Perhaps MB can sell the cars with an empty system and give buyers a voucher to get it filled with the product of their choice.

  • avatar
    Scout_Number_4

    Kudos to Daimler for standing up the bureaucrats on this one–I hope they somehow prevail.

  • avatar
    Stumpaster

    That’s a nice Genesis in the photo!

  • avatar
    gslippy

    M-B should stick to their guns. This issue at least deserves more research before the bureaucrats have their way.

    I’ve never heard of a mfr declaring their own product unsafe, while the regulators say otherwise. This is really something.

  • avatar

    Is that the new S-Class or the old? Looks too much like the old in my opinion.

    D

  • avatar
    goldtownpe

    Why don’t manufacturers go back to using liquid carbon dioxide (R-744)? It’s safer and is better for the environment. The slightly higher cost is pretty minimal.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      CO2 requires significantly higher pressures to work effectively. the cost of the refrigerant might be slightly higher, but the cost of the *systen* is way more than slightly higher.

      • 0 avatar
        goldtownpe

        The refrigerant is cheaper since CO2 is a widely available product. Yes, the system cost is more expensive due to the higher operating pressure, but IS only slightly higher. About 20 euros or $30 according this website:

        http://www.alliance-co2-solutions.org/docs/cost_benefits.pdf

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        How high is the operating pressure? The new direct injection gasoline and diesel engines routinely have fuel pressures in the 1000′s of psi. So I think we need to re-calibrate what we think of as high pressure.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        @goldtownpe:

        1) biased source. I fully expect the “Alliance for CO2 Solutions” to say how wonderful CO2 air conditioning is.

        2) a $30 cost hit to the vehicle’s BOM translates to a lot more than a $30 bump in sticker price. Then you have to factor in the costs of designing and validating the new systems.

      • 0 avatar
        goldtownpe

        So are you saying that HFO-1234yf did not require any testing validation? So there aren’t any of those cost to pass on to the consumer? And how cheap is the refrigerant going to be anyway when there are only a couple of suppliers (Dupont and Honeywell) that can make HFO-1234yf? It’s effective a monopoly because Dupont and Honeywell are in a joint contract to make the stuff. CO2 is widely available.

        New systems? CO2 was used as a refrigerant before R-12 and other CFC or HFC. Besides, DENSO and Visteon has already develop working CO2 based A/C systems for automotive use.

        So are you saying that CO2 is not a viable alternative?

      • 0 avatar
        Brian P

        The issue is that because CO2 has a significantly different operating pressure range, it cannot be used with existing vehicle hardware designs. R134 and HFO-1234yf (and the old, long-since-banned R12 … and propane, for that matter, which is not uncommonly substituted) all operate in roughly the same pressure and temperature range, and the required flow-rates inside the system are not too radically different.

        Using CO2 would require the use of completely new and incompatible hardware throughout. The condenser, in particular, would be very expensive to design for the required pressure range.

        I do not know what the effect would be on the efficiency and performance of the system as a whole even if this were done.

      • 0 avatar
        jz78817

        @goldtownpe no, I’m not saying any of that and I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t try to cram words into my mouth. If you can’t participate in a discussion without constructing straw men, then please refrain.

        HFO-1234yf is attractive to manufacturers because it works just about as well as HFC-134a in existing hardware. Validating HFO-1234yf in existing hardware takes money but a shitload less money than validating all new designs to effectively use CO2 as a refrigerant. All I’m saying is that 1) I’m not convinced Daimler’s evidence points to the refrigerant and not the lubricant given most legacy refrigerants decompose into nasty shit too, 2) CO2 is a perfectly cromulent refrigerant in a system designed to use it as such.

        CO2 as a refrigerant is not impossible. Nothing is. But you can’t just “flip a switch” by legislative fiat and expect cars to change overnight.

      • 0 avatar
        goldtownpe

        @jz78817
        “CO2 as a refrigerant is not impossible.”

        Uh…have you not read any of my posts. CO2 as a refrigerant is not new. In fact, it’s old tech. Older than R-12. It has been used as a refrigerant long before R-12. There’s no “all new” system to design. If you read my previous post, Denso and Visteon already have CO2 based A/C systems for automotive use.

        Yes, it’s not a “drop-in” replacement for the existing hardware and it’s hardware cost a little more. But it’s safer and better for the environment.

        “But you can’t just “flip a switch” by legislative fiat and expect cars to change overnight.”
        Isn’t that what happened. That’s how we have R-134a and now Europe will have HFO-1234yf. Set a drop-dead date in the future and every new car after that date must comply. That’s how it has been done in the past.

    • 0 avatar
      mike1dog

      I believe I read that since liquid carbon dioxide has to run at considerably higher pressures, the automakers couldn’t pipe it directly into the evaporator in the cabin, but had to have a heat exchanger. It probably added too much complexity to do it.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    CO2 refrrigeration requires very high pressures and hence a more expensive compressor, evaporator and piping.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    M-B can’t fight the Brussels bureaucrats alone, it’s going to need German politicians to act on its behalf. That’s where the next stage of this fight is going, because enviro-bureaucrats don’t recognize anything but superior power.

  • avatar
    jz78817

    one thing I’ve not seen in these discussions- is the refrigerant itself the flammable part? ‘cos everything I’ve read about 1234yf says it’s not. If, however, they’re using a mineral oil lubricant for the compressor (HFC-134a uses a glycol lubricant) then if the oil mist catches fire (easy to do) it will degrade the refrigerant into not-nice things. And it’s not like 1234yf is particularly worse than other refrigerants; HFC-134a also degrades to hydrogen fluoride when exposed to flame, and R-12 degrades to phosgene which is no walk in the park.

  • avatar
    redav

    Or they could go with a completely different, non-refrigerant system, such as one based on the Peltier effect. It would be unnecessarily expensive & inefficient, though.

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      A Peltier cooler worthy of being used in an S-class would also require huge amounts of power. This would require a larger alternator, which in turn would require more fuel.

      However, the advantage is that it could be used for “instantaneous” heating if operated in reverse during cold weather.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      The problem with Peltier devices is they work on a fixed temperature differential for a given power. If you want the cold side to be *cold,* you need a damn effective way to get heat off of the hot side.

  • avatar
    turbobrick

    And what is the car of choice for European diplomats? The S-class. R134 will be acceptable again as soon EU bureaucrats notice that they are being chauffeured around in an old, disgusting 2012 S-class while Africans are rocking their CD plates on a brand new one.

  • avatar
    indi500fan

    The obvious answer is to eliminate A/C in the first place.
    Do it “for the children”

  • avatar

    If that’s the new S550, I’m not impressed.
    What have they done to my car???

  • avatar
    Joe K

    Imagine if you will, a world where everyone drove Ford Pintos …

  • avatar
    skor

    I still have a full can of R-12 in my basement. Unless I am paid the sum of 1 million dollars, I will release it into the atmosphere. (Insert evil villain laugh here).


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