By on July 18, 2013

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The EU Commission has provisionally sided with France in that country’s decision to stop the sale of new Mercedes-Benz cars because of Daimler’s decision to continue to use R134a refrigerant in it’s HVAC systems. The EU has banned R134a out of concerns for global warming. The only available replacement that meets the new regulations is R1234yf, made by Honeywell, and Mercedes-Benz has insisted that their tests show that the new refrigerant is dangerously flammable and could start an underhood fire under certain conditions. The provisional ruling could be a problem for Daimler in other EU countries.

“Currently in the European market there are vehicles produced by this manufacturer that, according to the preliminary Commission analysis, are not in conformity with their type-approval,” EU vice president for trade Antonio Tajani said in a prepared statement on Tuesday. Daimler insists that since the cars were approved by Germany’s Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (Federal Motor Transport Authority), known as KBA, they are legal to sell in France and the rest of the EU. “Our cars have a valid, European-wide permit. Nothing should stand in the way of their being registered.”

So far the cars that are affected are the Mercedes A class, B class and the new CLA. The company said that the regulatory blockade could affect about 2% of its global sales, about 29,000 cars. Audi and Volkswagen have also objected to the refrigerant change.

The issue is serious enough that a meeting was scheduled for today (July 17, 2013) with all 28 Member States of the EU sending representatives. A spokeswoman for Tajani told just-auto from Brussels. “Tomorrow afternoon, we are probably going to send a release on the position of the European Commission.”

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29 Comments on “Daimler Loses A Round With EU Over R134a Refrigerant, Full EU Commission Meets...”


  • avatar
    Halftruth

    I think Mercedes has made their point here. There is enough evidence to suggest that the refrigerant is a problem. I would not want to be in a wreck for fear that either the front or rear could explode. In classic EU fashion, they’ll just shove it down their throats anyway after this meeting.

  • avatar
    TR4

    My tests show that gasoline is dangerously flammable and could start an underhood fire under certain conditions. It should be banned as a motor vehicle fuel.

    • 0 avatar

      TR4 – that’s a good point.

      As long as a refrigerant isn’t carcinogenic and doesn’t hurt the environment (any more than the V8 or V12 it’s cooling down) I guess it is no more dangerous than gasoline.

      • 0 avatar
        Hummer

        Refrigerant not coolant, and it is much more dangerous than gasoline, it releases phosgene gas and other extremely dangerous gasses when it burns, the flammability concerned is only half the problem.

        • 0 avatar
          Eric M

          R1234yf physically cannot release phosgene when it burns. First year chemistry here, there are no chlorine atoms in R1234yf, and phosgene needs two of them to exist.

          Anything with fluorine in it will spit off various bad things when burned, R1234yf and R134a are similar in this way.

          • 0 avatar
            jz78817

            this is what I haven’t found an answer to- is the refrigerant itself flammable, or does the fire risk actually lay with the compressor lubricant? Even the current HFC-134a can decompose into HF when exposed to flame, but it has a glycol-based lubricant which is less combustible than the mineral oil used for 1234yf.

            short version: is the refrigerant catching fire, or is the oil mist igniting and decomposing the refrigerant?

            Hell, R-12 was the one which could decompose into phosgene, and it used a mineral-oil lubricant.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          What it releases is hydrogen fluoride, which can eat through glass and all of your cells.

          • 0 avatar
            Eric M

            R-134a, Teflon, Viton, PVDF, ECTFE and a whole host of other materials used in cars will spit off HF when burned. Hell, HF probably isn’t even the most toxic thing to be found in burning car smoke.

            As a general rule it is pretty safe to assume HF to be one of the many decomposition/combustion products of any fluorine containing organic material.

            Back to the point, it looks like the Daimler engineers saw something in testing that scared them, to the point of giving the EU the bird over this stuff. I know German engineers are risk-adverse, but they didn’t pick this fight because they were bored.

          • 0 avatar
            old fart

            Exactly, very dangerous! When R134 came out it was touted as extremely safe for the environment , so I would guess the patent ran out and they need something new to make money on even if it does eat glass.

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            MB isn’t making billions off of the change unlike the EU

          • 0 avatar
            Hummer

            That’s it, my bad, too many thing on my mind

  • avatar
    mike1dog

    The new refrigerant was tested by the SAE, and it appeared to be fine. They said the Mercedes test was not realistic.

  • avatar
    Pig_Iron

    Get a drop-top and drive really fast. All the time.

  • avatar
    tedward

    As far as I’m concerned its a product that won’t be found in my family’s driveway. This isn’t idle talk, I convinced my uncle not to accept delivery of a Cadillac a few months ago BC of this. Deposit was returned thankfully.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    We’ve all had this discussion before, and there is much too much hysteria on both sides.

    Remember, the French no doubt have political motives in this issue, and want to thwart MB to enhance sales of French automobiles. And that would be even sweeter for them if the “thwarting” applied all across the EU!

    Neither coolant is a serious fire or poison-release hazard in an open environment. The conditions in the MB test were extreme. “Eric M” above has it just right: R1234yf can’t produce phosgene, and any refrigerant that did would do so in such small amounts as to be inconsequential. (Phosgene smells like wet hay, and is easily detectable.)

    r134a is 1,1,1,2 Tetrafluoroethane, which contains no chlorine, and cannot produce phosgene. It can produce some hydrofluoric acid (HF) during incomplete combustion. HF is pungent, and, like chlorine gas, can be easily detected. It is not significantly more harmful to the human body than HCl vapors, and large amounts would be needed to be seriously harmful or lethal.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1,1,1,2-Tetrafluoroethane

    r1234yf is 2,2,2,3 Tetrafluorpropene. It also contains no chlorine, so no phosgene here either. Yes, it could theoretically give off some HF during poor combustion. Ironically, however, this material contains a double bond on an electro-phyllic site, and that is carcinogenic in small amounts when handled, not burned! This is what the EU wants to use as a replacement for r134a???
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropene

    Maybe Mercedes knows more about this issue than meets the eye of EU regulators…

    ————-

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      MB isn’t making billions off of the change unlike the EU

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        Hummer – - -

        Good Point.

        —————-

      • 0 avatar
        Jean-Pierre Sarti

        I must have missed the memo, how is the EU directly making money from this change? bribes errr political contributions from Honeywell?

        • 0 avatar
          Hummer

          Please, the patent on r134 expiring, then all of a sudden honey well/DuPont come up with a magical formula with a new patent.
          Not a coincidence, and the only way they would be able to convince the EU that they should use their product is through back room deals which isn’t new to the EU.

          **
          If it actually had anything to do with the environment they wouldn’t be demanding a certain refrigerants use, but rather banning known dangerous refrigerants.
          **

          There are many more viable solutions, that are more effective, more efficient, and are much safer and easier to work with than the new refrigerant.

  • avatar
    jpolicke

    I am inclined to take M-B at its word regarding its opinion that R1234 carries unreasonable risks for use in AC systems. The difference in cost to them in switching refrigerant is minor and easily passed along to their customers. It’s probably much more expensive for them to fight this than to go along with the mandate and claim, when the foreseen horror stories ensue, that they were ‘just following orders’. Oh, yeah, that excuse didn’t work then and it won’t work now. So the EU creates a bag of lethal liabilities and gets all offended when M-B politely declines to hold it for them. Since they have it on such good authority (the manufacturer) that R1234 is harmless, why doesn’t the EU issue another edict absolving automakers from liability for any negative consequences arising from its use? Oh, yeah, I forgot; government is not into that whole taking-responsibility thing. Silly capitalists, that’s your job.

    As for all the smug posts about how gasoline was flammable, the byproduct of its combustion does not result in “attacking the body once it enters the bloodstream by spreading death on a cellular level” [TTAC, 12/12/12].

    My understanding is the R134 and R1234 are interchangeable (though not mixable). Perhaps M-B should deliver their cars with the A/C system evacuated and the compressor fuse pulled, and hand the buyer a voucher for getting his system charged with the refrigerant of his choice.

  • avatar
    Jean-Pierre Sarti

    why didn’t these companies just make the damned systems with CO2. I understand there are challenges with that too and maybe it not even as efficient but hey they could have billed it as a flame retardant system plus HVAC!

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      No because then if it leaks…. We get…. CO2!!!!
      *chaos, sky is falling, pitchforks, hanging witches*

      Plus EU wouldn’t be making billions off of CO2

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      Exactly! Isn’t MB’s slogan “The best, or nothing”? It seams that in this case they decided to go with “nothing” because the best (high pressure co2 system) was to expensive.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Chances are, in addition to being more expensive due to a patent, it’s less efficient. The pattern seems to be less efficiency at higher cost for every environmental “solution”. I’m beginning to suspect environmentalists and their political lackeys have another agenda going.

    The Montreal Accords on preserving the ozone layer has progressively banned a number of industrially useful compounds and solvents with little scientific research to back up the bans. 1 1 1 trichloroethane is the least toxic of solvents, used in labs, but is now banned because it MIGHT harm the ozone layer. That’s not definitive science.

    Germany is already pulling back from its tilt toward windmill subsidies and other measures pushed by the Greens that cost a lot of money and produce far less benefit/production than claimed. MB engineers and management may be part of a push-back against the German Greens and the EU bureaucrats pushing ever more expensive and restrictive dictates.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Type approval chaos. Under the so-called type regulations, if a vehicle is type-approved in one country, it is legal for sale in all other counries signatory to the plan.

    As I have opined before, and obviously others agree, Daimler cannot have commercial reasons for objecting to this new refrigerant. For them, the easy way out is to simply use the stuff and let it all play out. The SAE has now had two taskforces saying the stuff is really not a problem, and dismisses Daimler’s fears. Who is right?

    The sit back and enjoy popcorn scenario envisages a time in the future, after an EU/USA trade accord is signed that France will object to some US rule or regulation which some EU commissioner will uphold, based on “preliminary” investigation, e.g. forgetting about what I mention in my first sentence above, and then the fun will begin, especially since 80% of the population, including 80% of the Senate will have forgotten about the pact. Freedom fries will once again proliferate. Unlikely? Don’t bet on it.

  • avatar
    84Cressida

    Nothing will ever top R12. R134a was touted as environmentally friendly and now it’s harmful to the environment, blah blah blah. I guess I should stock pile R134a now like people used to with R12.

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      I wonder if anyone has ever converted a newer vehicle to R12, you can still buy it if you go online to take a certification test, or if you know someone with the equipment.

      • 0 avatar
        84Cressida

        I’m sure someone out there has tried. Theoretically it should be doable, you’d have to find R12 fittings to go over R134a ones, and they strangely do exist. Whether the EPA approves, I don’t know. You’d also have to flush the PAG oil and use Mineral or Ester oil and then charge the system. It might be difficult determining the right amount to put in since R12 has larger molecules, but it also has lower head pressures so I would imagine would cool better.

        The EPA test is a comical joke. Open book, $15 dollars, and mostly common sense knowledge. On eBay you don’t even need the certificate with most sellers, most auctions stipulate that if you email the seller saying you will resell this to a licensed professional they’ll you R12 right then and there. I’ve seriously considered buying a few cans. My grandpa has a 12 oz can in his garage from 20 years ago.


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