By on July 22, 2013

Neutronics Inc. Photo

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.

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18 Comments on “Honeywell Dismisses Daimler’s Distress Over R1234yf...”


  • avatar
    old5.0

    The company who controls the rights to a new and potentially highly profitable chemical objects to criticism of said chemical? The mind boggles…

    • 0 avatar
      Hummer

      Hurts me to even respond to such an article, could you imagine if the natural gas industry came out to say natural gas was the way of the future?

      BREAKING NEWS Environmentalist study find they need subsidies to pay for protests against subsidies.

  • avatar
    Instant_Karma

    I’ve read knock down drag out internet forum topics where people argue about the success and safety of recharging AC systems with propane. Sounds like the Hank Hill method is way safer than this new stuff.

  • avatar
    gslippy

    I find it extraordinary that a manufacturer would declare that its own product is unsafe if built to a government-mandated standard. How can M-B’s concerns be ignored?

    It will hit the fan when the first R1234yf car bursts into flames after a crash.

    But alas, saving the environment is more important than people’s safety.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Something is fishy, and I’m not sure what, so I can withhold judgment on MB for now, but what I can’t shake is the belief that the new refrigerant will not be better for the environment in any measureable way. There must be so many other ways to better spend this money that actually will make a difference. It’s like installing solar panels on a home with no insulation.

  • avatar
    50merc

    Note: this controversy could not have arisen without the global warming alarmists/statists discredited hysteria about “greenhouse gases”. It would be more logical for the warmists to toss virgins into volcanoes.

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      No need to blame this on believing in the (easily repeatable and verifiable, probably on a 5th grade science level) propensity of CO2 to trap/reflect heat. Instead blame it on a political culture of industry fundraising. European politicians have been bribed to mandate the use of this product, and to escalate the situation to defend that decision. Conflicts like this actually represent a fairly non-trivial risk to the validity of the EU as a sort of single border market, if I was a European working in the manufacturing sector I would be livid. As an American I would rather see it die in the early stages of this debate and not make it to our shores for the, now inevitable, class action bloodbath.

      Also, as an American I do root for the EU to continue on as a real entity. That continent has a pretty awful track record when it comes to internal conflicts spiraling out of control. They can have whatever political system they want, just so long as it stops the cycle of initiating global conflicts that involve really big guns and drag us in every time. Go EU!

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        What I can’t help but think of is how Europeans scoff at the US system of federal govt + state govts, and ridicule why we do things the way we do. With the creation of the EU, I figured they’d go through similar growing pains & conflicts. Hopefully, they come away with greater appreciation for the difficulty balancing states’ rights & autonomy v. a strong federal govt.

  • avatar
    Manic

    So, it’s made in China from fossil raw-mats, using energy from which source, coal? Then shipped to Europe and it is “green” alternative?
    Oh and it is also more expensive and seems to be a bit risky….mmkay, nice own goal again, EU.

  • avatar

    “We are asking ourselves why Daimler doesn’t try to constructively resolve the problem”

    So there is a problem… and you think that the real world will not produce an environment that meets the risk? Let me introduce you to Mr. Murphy.

  • avatar
    Scribe39

    Yep. It’s all about the money.

  • avatar
    wmba

    Strategically, Daimler has Honeywell in a corner. Everyone tells DB they’re idiots for worrying about this new refrigerant. Cue the first nasty accident, and Mercedes has a paper trail two years long and a big red arrow pointing the lawyers to everyone but them.

  • avatar
    PCP

    Actually, there seems to be a lot of misinformation regarding the subject – including this article and more so some of the comments.

    You might want to read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropene first.

    There is no doubt Honeywell, as a typical American company, did intense lobbying to promote it’s product, including in the European Parliament. Still, the 2006/40/EC directive does not directly imply that R1234yf has to be used.
    The directive only forbids the usage of gases with a 100 years global warming potential (GWP) greater than 150. R134 must be as much as 1300, while R1234yf has a 100 years GWP of 4 (if memory serves me right).
    CO2 has a GWP of 1 (being the basis of the calculations) and actually could be used for AC, but implies more technical modifications than R1234yf.

    Also see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_automotive_air_conditioning

    • 0 avatar
      tedward

      “does not directly imply that R1234yf has to be used”

      Sure, but it also does not directly acknowledge that there are no other alternatives which are available on the market. I do feel badly for the chem companies on this one, I’m sure they were pressured to ramp up production etc… by the EU in order for the rule to go into effect. But not badly enough that I would allow a family member to be exposed to this risk (toxic gas risk, not fire).

      • 0 avatar
        PCP

        The directive was published in 2006 – as its name says. 7(!) years later, it appears that the ‘almost’ drop-in replacement can be dangerous and that no replacement solution has yet been successfully developed.

        Now why is that? Is it just SO DIFFICULT, did the car manufacturers just not care, or did they think they could lobby themselves out of this directive anyway?

        Frankly I do neither know nor really care for the reason. I do not even live in a EC-Country (though obviously our cars are concerned anyway).

        I do wonder, though. Gasoline burns (and readily explodes, if you believe the movies…), so does gas as used in gas-powered cars, barbecue grills, spraycans, etc. Li-On accumulators are quite dangerous too.

        Actually driving a car is one of the most dangerous thing people do – most of them on a daily basis.

        On the other hand, not even companies like Volvo seem to care too much about R1234yf. If I believe the WP-article, even the General is going to us it, even though I don’t believe there is a similar directive in the States. So is only MB concerned about our safety?

        Oh and finally – feeling badly for the chem companies – seriously?

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The next move is for the German KBA to sue the EU for having only one “approved” and patented refrigerant, and banning all others. Bureaucracies are good at cranking out “scientific” studies that prove whatever they want proved, so that route would be useless. Restraint of trade and collusion with sole source manufacturers would sting – and throw resolution to various courts, with German courts doing to the EU standard what they’ve done to the Euro.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I applaud Mercedes for sticking to their guns here and I am now rooting for the Germans to deny approval on various Peugots, Renaults and Nissans, or perhaps any vehicle fitted with R1234yf systems. Go ahead and escalate, it will bring this matter into the international spotlight (sorry for rephrasing yesterdays comment here), and in that spotlight Honeywell and Dupont lose the war.

  • avatar
    rpn453

    Why not hydrocarbon refrigerants, like us Canadians use when we want to recharge the system ourselves? Oh yeah, can’t patent that. Nevermind.


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