By on March 11, 2014

Automotive Refrigerants

An automotive coolant Daimler claims is too dangerous to use in their vehicles, despite the warnings from the European Union to cease usage of an older coolant considered harmful to the environment, was found to be safe according to a report made by EU scientists.

Reuters reports the coolant in question, the Honeywell and DuPont co-developed R1234yf, posed “no evidence of a serious risk in the use of [the] refrigerant in mobile air-conditioning systems under normal and foreseeable conditions of use” as reported by the Joint Research Council in their findings last week.

Daimler, who claimed the coolant emits a toxic gas when burned, defended their position against using R1234yf, claiming the research “too restrictive,” preferring an option to develop a system using carbon dioxide as the cooling method, though said system is years in the making.

Meanwhile, the automaker uses R134a, an older coolant that the European Commission has found to have a global warming potential 1,000 times that of carbon dioxide while developing an air-conditioning system; EU rules state new coolants must have no more than 150 times said potential. As a result, the Commission has begun legal proceedings against Germany over Daimler’s current action on the matter.

R1234yf is currently 500,000 cars according to Honeywell, who expects the coolant will be in more than 2 million units by the end of 2014.

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38 Comments on “Coolant In Daimler-EU Dispute Found Safe...”


  • avatar
    Hummer

    Of course scientists funded by the pursuant party said their research validated their clients beliefs.

    In other news water is wet.

    EU is making themselves increasingly irelephant (yik), how hard would it be for Germany to drop out? Without Germany the EU is done for.

    • 0 avatar
      mike1dog

      Yes, Germany should drop out of the EU because of A/C refrigerant. Really, when will people realize this is Mercedes not wanting to pay for a patented refrigerant, so they made a test that couldn’t happen under any real world circumstances to prove it was dangerous when all subsequent tests, by the SAE, and anyone else has shown nothing like what their test shows.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Germany should drop out of EU for a number of reasons least of which being A/C refrigerant.

      • 0 avatar
        tedward

        mike1dog

        well that’s certainly been the Honeywell/Dupont official talking point on this issue. It seems to ignore the fact that the alternative proposed by the German manufacturers will cost them a lot of money as well.

        In the end it’s the car company who is held accountable for the safety of the whole device, not the coolant manufacturer.

  • avatar
    Carrera

    If Dupont paid for the study, then it has no value really. I rather believe Mercedes who is worried about potential lawsuits if accidents disfigure occupants due to the refrigerant they use. Why should we believe a group paid by Dupont? They just want to make money.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      That reasoning is a bit of a genetic fallacy in that it conveniently ignores any facts that might be presented in the study and focuses on the people behind it as an argument. It doesn’t hold water.

      While there certainly could be some bias present in such a report, it’s best to read it and dispute the actual information being presented than dismiss the information merely because of who presented it.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      Who the hell else was going to fund the study? You?

      • 0 avatar
        mik101

        Exactly. Numbers can be manipulated to prove anything. How do we know that data given in a study is really valid in the first place?

        I’m more inclined to believe Mercedes on this one. They’d just pass the cost of the coolant and updated A/C system onto customers. Business as usual there. It is only the potential lawsuits that would motivate them not to use it.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      Don’t be so quick to absolve Daimler of bias, either. I’m sure they have their ulterior motives, too. Maybe it’s as simple as containing costs. Maybe they see a competitive disadvantage or strategic concern.

      Personally, I think the EU is going overboard and fighting a battle that won’t yield nearly the benefit they advertise (much like the NHTSA mandating back up cameras so that maybe 100 lives/year are saved). I believe there are better, more effective, and cheaper ways to meet their end goal than requiring the new refrigerant.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Why is this changing again? /sarc

    “an older coolant that the European Commission has found to have a global warming potential 1,000 times that of carbon dioxide”

    Better question(s), who came up with this data and why all of the sudden after 20 years of R134 was this only “discovered” now?

    • 0 avatar
      redliner

      This isn’t new data. The issue is increased regulatory pressure coupled with the availability of a new (and more expensive) refrigerant, which just happens to be patented and only available from one source. Daimler’s refusal to use the new refrigerant is more due to cost and a monopolistic supplier rather than true safety concerns.

      A CO2 system is even more expensive and runs at very high pressure, but C02 is very low cost and can be sourced from many, many places, even in-house if they wanted to.

      • 0 avatar
        05lgt

        Why would anyone develop a new, less environmentaly damaging refrigerant they couldn’t patent? If Daimler designs an economically viable CO2 system, trust this; it will be patented.

        • 0 avatar
          golden2husky

          CO2 would require very high working pressures, heavy equipment and lower efficiency. It just is not practical, especially in mobile applications. The good thing about 1234yf is that its performance curves virtually mimic that of 134a. So 134a is a drop in replacement for future service.

          And for heaven’s sake, Refrigerant not coolant. This is even more irritating than saying cement instead of concrete, unless of course you really mean cement.

        • 0 avatar
          redav

          No one has a problem with anyone patenting anything. The problem is the govt regulation that requires you to use that patented product.

          If Daimler invented a CO2 system, patented it, and then the EU required everyone to use it (and thus pay Daimler a royalty), that would be equally wrong.

  • avatar
    RogerB34

    R1234yf has been approved but not mandated by the EPA:
    http://www.rdac.com/resources/blog/epa-approves-1234yf-what-do-you-need-know

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    “Coolant” is not the right term for this, the very quote you used has the common “refrigerant” nomenclature in it.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    As long as R1234yf is cheaper than a CO2 system, it’s still the best option to meet regulations in the EU. Hopefully someone will develop another compliant refrigerant that’s cheaper to run than CO2 and there can be some competition. I’m not sure there are enough big chemical multinationals to make this hope of mine viable.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    The original refrigerant, R12 (Freon) was the cheapest, safest, most efficient refrigerant in use for many years. Funny that R12 was deemed dangerous just about the time the patents ran out, and the newly-patented R134a was found to be less destructive of the ozone layer. Now that the patent is running out on R134a, it’s more dangerous to ozone due to new regulations, and there’s a newly-patented refrigerant available that does better.

    Freon was the most efficient, and the switch to R134a resulted in less efficient cooling. Chances are R1234yf is even less efficient than R134a. That seems to be the pattern, forcing customers (through automakers and AC companies) to pay more and more for less and less, and probably use more energy in the process.

    I’m not ready to doubt the science, but It’s hard to trust the bureaucrats who write the regulations based on their interpretation of the science, especially when there’s a lot of money involved with a sole source supplier. If there were a true investigative press anywhere, they wouldn’t bother with the studies, and instead would be following the money.

    • 0 avatar
      mik101

      THIS!!!!

    • 0 avatar
      Master Baiter

      Astute observation. I am ready to doubt the science. We’re being handed the same line of BS WRT climate change and CO2.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        The destruction of ozone by CFCs is cast-in-stone and irrefutable. The science is there. I’m just waiting for the idiots who equate this year’s cold winter as “proof” that climate change does not exist. Climate and weather, while related, are certainly not the same thing.

    • 0 avatar
      Charliej

      Too damn many people think with their ideology instead of their brain. Freon R12 was developed in 1928 and a patent applied for. The patent was issued in 1932, meaning that R12 went off patent in 1949. From 1949 until R134 was mandated, anyone could make R12 refrigerant. The change from R12 to R134 was because the chlorine in R12 could destroy ozone in the upper atmosphere, causing a greater danger of skin cancer. It had nothing to do with global warming A serious question, if I can look this stuff up, why can’t you?

      • 0 avatar
        Crosley

        Maybe you’re looking at it the wrong way.

        The problem was not the patent for R-12, but to lock in a new patent for the R-134 and mandate its use and make the old R-12 illegal.

        It’s amazing now that the R-134 is being found so “dangerous” to the environment, and here comes Honeywell/DuPont to the rescue with a new formula they’ve patented.

        Rinse and repeat.

        • 0 avatar
          Charliej

          Life must be so exciting when there are so many conspiracies about!!! I don’t know how I stand it. living in the real world. Oh well, at least I don’t need a tinfoil hat.

          • 0 avatar
            Crosley

            Yea, it’s completely crazy to think large companies would push governments to create monopolies for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Boxer2500

      You seem to be confusing two entirely different phenomena. CFCs (R12) destroy the ozone layer when released into the upper atmosphere. The regeneration of the ozone layer which has taken place since CFCs were phased out would seem to confirm this fact.

      R134a is being phased out in the EU because it is a potent greenhouse gas. No one is claiming that it is destructive to the ozone layer.

  • avatar
    stuart

    If 1234yf is flammable, but legal, why not R290a + R600 (propane + iso-butane)? When hydrocarbon refrigerants burn, there’s no toxic byproducts (burning HF-1234yf produces hydrogen fluoride), and hydrocarbons have negligible ozone and global warming potentials.

    Everyone freaks out because something might explode. Well, if I’m in a wreck, should I be more concerned about about a kilo of propane in the A/C, or 40+ kilos of gasoline in the fuel tank?

    Answering myself: because there are no patents on hydrocarbon refrigerants, and cars could be recharged with a dollar’s worth of materials.

    • 0 avatar
      Charliej

      I did not make myself clear, I was responding to Lorenzo. He was saying that the only reason that R12 was done away with was because the patent was expiring. This is simply not true. In the matter of R134 verses R1234yf. I am just a bystander, watching the argument.

    • 0 avatar
      Blue-S

      According to the German VDA, R1234a is FAR less flammable than propane or isobutane. This is why the industry refers to R1234yf as “mildly flammable.” R1234yf is only flammable in high concentrations on 6-12%, whereas propane and isobutane are flammable in concentrations around 2%. Also, propane and isobutane have a burn volocity of over 40 cm/second, compared with R1234yf’s burn velocity of 1.5 cm/sec. Why would I be concerned about using a highly flammable refrigerant such as propane or isobutane in my car, when I currently carry around a large quantity of gasoline in the fuel tank? The refrigerant system is highly vulnerable: the condenser lives only inches behind the front bumper, is made of thin aluminum (by necessity for heat transfer) and has a LOT of surface area for potential contact with objects in a collision. The fuel system is rather well protected by comparison. More detail here: http://www.rivoiragas.it/wp-content/uploads/pdf/Presentazione%20European%20Automotive%20AC%20Convention.pdf

  • avatar
    Master Baiter

    These idiot regulators never perform a cost benefit analysis. For example, I’m paying 3X the national rate for electricity in CA because some idiot lawmakers decided CA needs to combat “global warming” by moving to alternative energy sources. How much “dirtier” would the air be if we built some friggin’ coal plants to bring the price of electricity down? How much is the economy suffering because people are spending thousands of dollars a year more on their PG&E bills instead of this money being put into the economy in more efficient ways? People would never support these policies if a factual cost/benefit was performed up front.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      A slightly different perspective:
      There are many ways to get the goal of a cleaner environment, lower GHGs, etc. Just because one way (mandating new refrigerants) is possible, doesn’t mean it is the most effective or lowest cost.

      I don’t have a philosophical problem with govt regs that make my life better, but I do expect them to pick the lowest hanging fruit first.

    • 0 avatar
      dtremit

      How much dirtier? Look at Beijing:

      http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-21005228

  • avatar
    50merc

    Cost-benefit analysis is toxic to regulators. Statists, with their utopian and insatiable appetites for control, cannot allow rational analysis because they invariably depend upon stirring up panic to coerce compliance. (“Doom is near! Something must be done! Now! We can’t afford to think about it!”) AGW is the Holy Grail for regulation because carbon factors into every facet of existence. Hence, everything must be regulated. Well, almost everything. Volcanoes are the worst emitters, but they tend to ignore cease-and-desist orders.


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