Last week, the European Union Commission’s Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles meeting affirmed France’s refusal to allow Mercedes-Benz to sell cars using R134a refrigerant, and alsom indicated that other EU countries may block the sale of those cars as well. Now, Honeywell International, which owns the rights to R1234yf, (the only refrigerant currently approved by the EU) said that Daimler’s concerns are unfounded. M-B had run tests showing that under certain circumstances, leaks in the air conditioning system could cause underhood fires, and that when it burns, R1234yf produces poisonous hydrogen flouride gas.
Reuters reports that Honeywell European government affairs manager Tim Vink told the German newspaper Handelsblatt that M-B did not duplicate real world conditions with their tests. “The tests that Daimler did were static and don’t reflect the course of a real accident… We are asking ourselves why Daimler doesn’t try to constructively resolve the problem instead of going it alone in refusing to use R1234yf.”
While dismissing Daimler’s concerns, Honeywell”s statement did indicate that air conditioning systems do need to be modified to use R1234yf safely. The company said minor changes to the HVAC system that would allow the gas to dissipate quickly in the event of a leak would address the automaker’s concerns. “It would cause only minimal costs per year, other manufacturers who have already taken that step tell us,” Vink said.
Honeywell insists that the new refrigerant, sold by that company under the Solstice brand and by DuPont under their own Opteon brand and manufactured at those companies’ joint venture plant in China, has no significant risk, and that it’s the most cost effective and environmentally safe alternative to the previously used R134a, considered to be a greenhouse gas. R134a was originally used because it was considered better for the atmosphere than R12. Honeywell’s “cost effective” comment reflects how R1234yf is more expensive than R134a. The high cost of R1234y has also increased concerns over counterfeiting.
Daimler has been selling the affected R134a cooled cars, A-class, B-class and SL models, under the approval of Germany’s Federal Motor Transport Authority, known by its German acronym, KBA. The European Commission has given German authorities until Aug. 20 to explain that approval, in light of the EU’s ban on R134a.