Remember R1234yf – the replacement refrigerant for R134a that can be potentially fatal, rather than just harmful to the environment? After a protracted battle between Mercedes-Benz and the EU over the use of the new refrigerant, which is flammable and extremely toxic, the adoption of R1234yf appears to be in full swing.
A report in Automotive News claims that the adoption of R1234yf will leave auto makers eligible for CAFE credits. As many as 500,000 vehicles in US showrooms have adopted R1234yf, including the Honda Fit EV, Cadillac XTS and Jeep Cherokee. The switch was prompted by concerns over greenhouse gases, as R134a is some 1,430 times more potent at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. 1234yf is also much more expensive, at roughly ten times the cost of R134a.
Despite the health and safety concerns regarding R1234yf, the relentless drive to switch over to it seems to be driven by a policy of putting the environment before people, no matter what the consequences may be. While the EU has resorted to legal action against non-compliant auto makers, the EPA has offered credits to auto makers that switch over to the new substance to help them meet CAFE requirements, adding yet another layer of complexity to a framework riddled with loopholes and unfortunate incentives.
Automakers like Mercedes-Benz are eager to switch over to CO2 as the new standard for refrigerants, but that would require higher-pressure HVAC systems in car, which would in turn have a negative impact on fuel economy.