By on December 12, 2012

HFO-1234yf is a refrigerant that is becoming an industry standard in Europe. Thanks to incentives offered by the Environmental Protection Agency, the refrigerant is likely to be rolled out widely in the United States as well. Honeywell and partner Dupont have a monopoly on the stuff. It also can kill you in more ways than one. Says  Reuters:

When engineers at Mercedes-Benz tasked with field-testing a revolutionary new refrigerant watched it ignite in a ball of fire before their eyes, it took a while for the significance of their discovery to sink in.

Simulating a leak in the air-conditioning line of a Mercedes B-Class tourer, they had released a fine mixture of refrigerant and A/C compressor oil, which sprayed across the car’s turbo-charged 1.6 litre engine.

The substance caught fire as soon as it hit the hot surface, releasing a toxic, corrosive gas as it burned. The car’s windshield turned milky white as lethal hydrogen fluoride began eating its way into the glass.

“We were frozen in shock, I am not going to deny it. We needed a day to comprehend what we had just seen,” said Stefan Geyer, a senior Daimler engineer who ran the tests.”

After Daimler’s findings, major carmakers quietly did a new round of safety tests. The tests showed combustion occurring in more than two-thirds of the cases after a simulated head-on collision, Reuters says.

Before that, Andreas Kornath, a chemistry professor at the University of Munich, warned that HFO-1234yf can release hydrogen fluoride HF.L during its combustion. Says Reuters:

“Readily absorbed by the skin, hydrogen fluoride begins attacking the body once it enters the bloodstream by spreading death on a cellular level, a process known as necrosis. High enough doses are known to cause the lungs to fill up with fluid, causing a drowning sensation, and to trigger cardiac arrest.”

European carmakers are opposed to using the new refrigerant. Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech advocates the use of CO2 as a refrigerant that is “guaranteed not to burn”.

Honeywell and Dupont concede that HFO1234yf is “mildly flammable”, but claim the reports of a killer substance are overblown. “The chance of being killed by an inflating airbag is 100 times higher,” said Chris Seeton, an engineer from Honeywell leading the development of HFO-1234yf. He also says Daimler doctored the test. “Their test was engineered for that outcome.”

GM announced it will use  HFO-1234yf in 2013 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models. Ford says it will use HFO-1234yf in its European models if required, but would like to stick with the current refrigerant, HFC-134a.

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65 Comments on “Environmentally Safe Refrigerant Can Blow Up And Poison You If You Aren’t Dead Already...”

  • avatar

    There is no hardcore evidence that R134a is dangerous to the environment. When taking my certification test, it said it right there, along the lines of “even though there is no evidence that r124a is dangerous to the environment, it is still required….”

    It’s change for the sake of some government pay-rolled agency to justify there jobs.

    R-12 was a much more efficient refrigerant. Now, CO2, which will likely by the future substitute, is no where near as efficient as r134a. Existing cars will have to be converted, and like when r12 cars were converted to r134a, they’re not going to cool nearly as good; and that’s IF they can be converted at all.

    • 0 avatar

      Just like vehicle emissions. The regulators can never get close enough to zero, it would put them out of jobs. I’m still working off a stockpile of R-12 I built up (thanks Sams Club) before it was deleted from OEM manufacture.

    • 0 avatar

      And how ever will hybrids ever keep up w/the cooling demands w/their aneic litle powerplants? Yet another strike against these forced deathtraps. How much will the taxpayer subsidy have to increase in order to induce people to show up in the ER/Morgue all sweaty?

  • avatar

    Sounds like fun stuff, with about the same safety of using NG (which is allowed in commercial and industrial settings, with significant cost savings (electricity), because you only have to compress once and allow the hot gas back into the pipeline system and compress a new batch versus cooling and recompressing heated/expanded refrigerent). death by necrosis would suck, even in comparison to burning

    GM is going to use it, everyone else seems to be saying were going to stay the hell away unless we have too, why does that seem just about right?

  • avatar

    Volkswagen Chairman Ferdinand Piech advocates the use of CO2 as a refrigerant that is “guaranteed not to burn”.

    Sounds like an easy answer, which probably means it is wrong. What kind of compressor/system would this require? Why hasnt this been done already? Where is Mr. Piech’s prototype? I suppose he can afford to make one.

    What is that thing that looks like a flying roast in the picture?

    • 0 avatar

      I was wondering about that. too. It looks like a pig’s head that’s been thru some harsh test.

    • 0 avatar

      CO’2 would work fine, but is very inefficient. Meaning a much larger compressor (higher strain on the engine) and I’d imagine a larger condenser and evaporator to go along with it. So more weight, cost, and strain on the engine.

      As far as efficiency goes R12>R134>CO’2

      Your older “bad” refrigerants were very efficient. I use a 1955 Hot-Point fridge to keep the beer cold. Still ices up and works fine 60 years later. Think it runs R12, maybe R22. Runs quiet, barely ever turns on.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        The pressures involved in compressing carbon dioxide back into a liquid are much higher that the pressures required for R-134a. Leaks would be a problem.

        Old refrigerators and freezers use R-12 and mineral oil lubricant. They run for decades.

      • 0 avatar

        Refrigeration equipment from the 1950s was built much more solid than most items from the 1970s on. Especially home appliances.

        Has nothing to do with the type of refrigerant in it. Has everything to do with the tubing wall thickness, and the quality of the soldering ensuring that it is a closed system and nothing is going to leak.

        I’m sure when that Hot Point was manufactured, the system was completely evacuated, prior to the refrigerant being added, to ensure it was 100% free of any moisture. Thus no chance for corrosion of the tubing or the motor windings.

        What you have is an appliance that will probably outlive you.

      • 0 avatar

        The refrigeration equipment from the 1950s THAT’S STILL AROUND TODAY was built to last.

        We’re only looking at the successes that have stood the test of time. I hesitate to assume that everything at the time was so well built.

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        I have a 1950 GE fridge that was in the house my parents bought in 1960. Over the years, it was move around; and I’ve had it for 20 years. Only issue is the deteriorating rubber door gasket . . .as if I could complain!

  • avatar

    Is it cheaper? If so that would explain GM’s position on it.

    • 0 avatar

      And you thought Dexcool was bad…

      Yes, an airbag can kill you, but you have to hit something pretty hard to make it go off in the first place. Sounds like a leaky hose or a bad fitting could be sufficient to bump you off with this stuff.

    • 0 avatar

      No, it’s actually very expensive. I don’t get why this stuff is being pushed through. I’ve heard it’s poisonous even before it’s ignited and it is flammable. Those are the main reasons propane was never adopted as a commercial refrigerant. This is such a government boondoggle.

    • 0 avatar

      It is being pushed by Honeywell and DuPont because they have a patent on it. If the government requires all automakers (and other HVAC systems) to use it Honeywell and DuPont have a government mandated monopoly until the patent runs out…at which time they will have developed another proprietary refrigerant that they will press the government to require. Lather, rinse, repeat.

      GM probably likes the idea of a refrigerant that is somewhat proprietary, uses non-standard parts, and requires additional training and service tools: great for their parts business and keeps customers coming back to the dealers. That the refrigerant is less effective and costs more is a feature, not a bug. That it could be potentially deadly has never bothered GM before…

      Honeywell and DuPont want the money they invested in campaign contributions back. The EPA and GM are already happy to oblige.

      Enjoy your dose of cynicism.

      • 0 avatar

        It’s being pushed by Honeywell and DuPont in response to “incentives” by the EPA. The fact that those businesses want to do so in as advantageous a manner as possible and end up with an effective monopoly is shocking, shocking in a Capt. Renault kind of way, but you can’t ignore the role of the government in this story.

        I worked at DuPont for a long time I bet there are some old timers there, some chemists and engineers, who’d rather be selling R-12 since it’s a superior refrigerant.

    • 0 avatar

      GM is being driven to it by the US Govt., its stockholder. EPA is behind it. Yet another reason not to buy a GM car. I have been loyal to GM for years, often to my own detriment. But I will not buy a car with this type of refrigerant in the AC system. Just too dangerous and unproven in my opinion.

      • 0 avatar

        It clearly states, by Bertel, a prodigious troll blogger, that “the refrigerant is likely to be rolled out widely in the United States as well”. This isn’t set in stone by the EPA, GM or the Men in Black nor has Bertel offered anything to the contrary. Usual tempest in a teapot.

      • 0 avatar
        sunridge place

        ‘GM is being driven to it by the US Govt’

        I heard that Barney Frank made Chevy use Techno-Pink as a color for the new Spark…so you must be correct.

  • avatar

    AMC_CJ, did you intend the first reference to a refrigerant to be r134a instead of r124a? r124a can release phosgene and hydrogen flouride when burned. r134a is not rated as being particularly dangerous, but even that can result in hydroflouric acid when burned. Of course both can be cause asphyxiation risks in enclosed spaces.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Fire good for cooking mastodon. Fire bad for car motors. A few millennium of knowledge will be ignored as Mercedes sells this.

  • avatar

    CO2 systems will never be feasible, at least not in cars. The operating pressure is so high there would be constant leaks… the system would have to be very highly engineered to last as long as current systems. You would need a large compressor which would probably be fairly parasitic to the motor.

    If not for flammability, propane makes a good refrigerant. It can be mixed with other substances to reduce the flammability, though. It is somewhat compatible with existing R-134a systems.

  • avatar

    Once you elevate environmentalism to the status of a religion, complete with its own high priests and mythology, martyrdom will naturally be approved and expected. After all, only a few people will die and it’s all in the service of a “greater good”.

    • 0 avatar

      As an environmentalist, I can assure you that *I* don’t think of environmentalism in a religious way. I have an engineering background, so I consider minimizing waste and minimizing side-effects to be a design-constraint, like any other.

      Most practical environmentalism that actually matters is waste not want not stuff. Using the right tool for the right job is important, too.

      There are some annoying environmentalists out there, but of we’re going to judge a movement by their most annoying and ignorant members…. Well, environmentalists hardly have a monopoly on that particular curse!

      As for this refrigerant, Mercedes seems to be raising potentially serious safety issues that may not have been properly tested. But it’s also possible that something as simple as changing lubricants might fix it. This is the time to get some chemists and mechanical engineers together to figure this out.

      Welcome to arguing on the world stage, where the people you’re accustomed to talking about get to jump in and correct your misconceptions first hand!

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    From the article, it appears that the combination of the oil mist and HFO-1234 resulted in a promoted combustion of the refrigerant. The HFO itself is probably very hard to ignite, but the oil mist acts as a type of igniter. In any case, since you need a circulating oil to lubricate the AC compressor, the MB test was justified. You would get the same results in a standard explosion test vessel if you electrically ignited the combination of HFO and oil mist.
    This is a big fail, unless the manufacturers can find some sort of inhibitor to add to the HFO to prevent this from happening. Anyone who has worked with fluorine would know the dangers of HF gas.

    • 0 avatar
      George B

      Making enough hydrogen fluoride to etch the windshield unacceptable. The HVAC fan is going to suck that stuff into the passenger compartment.

      A mist of refrigerant oil can burn even if the refrigerant itself is non-flammable. Maybe someone can make a non-flammable lubricant.

  • avatar

    If the engineers at Honeywell and Dupont believe its safe for automotive applications then they should have no objection to having their immediate family members participate in the testing (where a simulated leak is introduced onto a hot engine).

    A “better” refrigerant that introduces additional, potentially lethal, risks but is less damaging to the environment isn’t better.

    Not everything that’s dreamed up in a lab becomes a marketable idea (sometimes because of unintended consequences) but tell the engineers to keep trying!

  • avatar

    If GM is really using this new refrigerant in their new cars, I would not buy one just because of that – yes, really!

    Hydrogen Floride (HF) is really, really, really nasty stuff (look it up yourself) – here’s one quote from Wikipedia: “The gas can also cause blindness by rapid destruction of the corneas.” I used hydrofloric acid (liquid form of HF) in the lab where I worked to dissolve ceramic materials. So you can’t use glass containers to hold it in – only Teflon ones. And if you get it on you, you go to the hospital, period.

    It makes the phosgene gas produced by the burning of R12 look positively benign!

    You know that we’ve gone off the deep end when the new chemical compounds put forth in the name of saving the environment are far more toxic and dangerous than the ones that they are replacing! But as they used to say in the 1950s: “Better living through chemistry!”

    • 0 avatar

      Meh, pikers. For truly devastating effects, chlorine trifluoride is the way to go. I hope it isn’t possible to produce an efficient refrigerant that could generate this stuff as an intermediate product.

      “It’s bad enough when your reagent ignites wet sand, but the clouds of hot hydrofluoric acid are your special door prize if you’re foolhardy enough to hang around and watch the fireworks.”


  • avatar

    Hydrogen fluoride (hydrofluoric acid) (HF) is one of the most corrosive and most toxic substances in existence. Any refrigerant that has more than a minuscule chance of causing human exposure to HF under any normal circumstance should be banned.

    HF etches glass. HF causes deep, necrotic burns to the body that take an exceedingly long time to heal and are difficult to treat. HF is reactive enough to react with all sorts of other substances it comes in contact with. It’s bad enough that no one in a chemistry lab uses it if there’s any other way to get a job done.

    For a car company to run any risk of exposing its customers and the general public to HF is not far short of madness.

  • avatar
    George B

    Oh hell no! This is the last last straw! Make car air conditioning in new cars not work for stupid environmental reasons on top of all sorts of other stupid regulations and Texas WILL secede!

    I wasn’t happy with the transition from R-12 to R-134a, but eventually the car air conditioning worked fairly well. Now if car companies would just put more tint into the glass and offer the option of light colored seating surfaces across all models including the “sport” ones.

    It’s possible to make an efficient refrigerant from a mixture of propane and isobutane that is miscible with the common refrigerant oils, has the right pressure vs. temperature and boiling points for current hardware, and can’t make hydrogen fluoride. Not difficult to make at home. The obvious problem is that it’s very flammable. The business problem is there is very little upside profit potential in making hydrocarbon air conditioning systems more safe and lots of liability potential if a fire occurs.

    • 0 avatar

      R-134a produces hydrogen flouride when burned, too, and even good old R-12 produces phosgene, which you don’t want to inhale either. Piech isn’t wrong when he says that R-744 (CO2) would be the safest possible refrigerant. Unfortunately, it would require much higher pressures.

      edit: oops, this was supposed to be a response to fincar.

  • avatar

    1) The fire is almost certainly the refrigeration oil. Years ago (when it was still legal to vent R12), George Goble demonstrated this by mixing R12 and refrigeration (mineral) oil in the usual proportions and venting it next to a propane torch. The burning oil mist created a huge fireball.

    2) The industry went to R134a because R12 destroyed ozone, and R12 systems could, theoretically, be retrofitted to use R134a. In practice, most such retrofits a) didn’t cool very well, and b) didn’t last very long. That was fine with the MVAC industry: most folks just bought new cars after their A/C retrofits failed.

    3) An 80/20 mix of Propane/Butane is an excellent substitute for R12, and is legal in some places (e.g. Australia). Also, it violates EPA regulations to replace R12 with any non-EPA-approved refrigerant, but it is legal to replace R134a with … almost anything you like, including propane. (However, many U.S. states prohibit flammable refrigerants in cars.)

    4) The MVAC industry has avoided Propane/Butane because they can’t make their usual obscene profits from it. EPA says “We’ll accept Propane/Butane when somebody shows it’s safe in cars,” but nobody wants to pay for the studies. There *have* been a few rigged demos that show Propane/Butane explosions… but nobody makes a big deal of it when an R12/R134a oil mist catches fire. Honestly, MVAC-related fires are exceedingly rare.

    5) If you suffer a crash while driving, are you more worried about 1..2Kg of refrigerant in your A/C system, or 40+Kg of gasoline in your tank?

    6) If the MVAC industry was truly concerned about you, the consumer, they would have converged on R406a because it a better refrigerant than R134a and probably safer too (R134a is poisonous in low concentrations). They didn’t because R406a is patented, and the patents are owned by a lone inventor who is not beholden to the MVAC industry.

    7) I’m not a refrigeration engineer, but I gather that CO2 is an acceptable refrigerant. Alas, it requires very high pressures, and would require a complete re-engineering of current MVAC systems, and such systems would likely be significantly more expensive than current MVAC. Also, CO2 isn’t patentable, so there’s little interest in researching it. :-)


    • 0 avatar

      The propane/butane-based stuff is legal here in Canada and commonly used as a direct replacement for r12 or r134a. I have friends and family that use it. Readily available at automotive hardware places like Canadian Tire (Red-Tek) and Princess Auto (Duracool). They claim it’s a little more efficient than r12 and considerably more efficient than r134a. They also claim that it has a higher auto-ignition temperature than r134a and that a significant underhood fire would occur approximately once every 50 years if all vehicles in North America used this type of refrigerant. It’s non-toxic and easy on the environment.

      Any mandated change from r134a to something with an active patent will certainly be the result of lobbying/bribes.

      • 0 avatar

        I’ve actually used Duracool in an old Volvo when I lived in Pennsylvania. I think EPA rule is that it’s officially illegal to use, but it was available for sale in Ohio. I think it’s a valid point that while it is possible for the mixture to ignite in an accident, there are other more dangerous factors to consider (puddle of gas under the car, etc).
        Safety and legality aside, the Duracool worked like a charm on my non-tinted wagon no matter how hot it was outside. Maybe not the ideal solution, but as nobody has a patent for butane/propane, I doubt that there were be any parties willing to undertake the effort compare the real-world safety profile of the stuff.
        In fact, when you search for HFC r12 replacements, you typically get the same scare article that is republished over and over. I’m going to take a silly guess that perhaps the industry leaders have created and distributed this document very effectively. Any time I’ve been in a forum discussing Duracool/Redtek, I swear a shill pops up and links to the same article.

  • avatar

    Anyone know what the actual operating pressures are for CO2 to work as a refrigerant compared to whatever is used now, and what is being proposed?

    • 0 avatar

      Googling for “CO2 pressure temperature chart” gets lots of graphs; I’d guess a CO2 system would need to reach over 1000 psi (roughly 70 bar). AFAIK, current R134a/R12 systems rarely go over 350 psi (24 bar).

      I don’t think the high pressures preclude efficient cooling with CO2, they’re just difficult (e.g. expensive) to handle without leaks.

      I think it would be wonderful if we the automotive industry could build cheap, effective, and reliable CO2 MVAC systems, but I’m not holding my breath. :-)


    • 0 avatar

      You want slides 12 and 13. These are maximums, not typical pressures (it lists 3 MPa for high-side for R-134a, for example, but most systems don’t go higher than 2 MPa), but it gets you a good feel of the difference we’re talking about: you need about five times the pressure as a rule of thumb.

  • avatar

    CO2? Isn’t that the dreaded greenhouse gas? If we switch our AC units to CO2, we’ll have hundreds of Hurricane Sandys every year! Oh, the humanity!

    • 0 avatar

      Fluorocarbon-based refrigerants, in addition to releasing harmful compounds when burned, have a much higher global warming potential than CO2.

      But, please, continue your outburst.

      • 0 avatar

        Not to pile on, but I’m having trouble seeing where sequestering CO2 in in our refrigerant systems is supposed to do anything but slightly decrease the CO2 in the atmosphere. CO2 is produced as a byproduct of numerous processes (like breathing) but in industrial quantities there are a number of processes, such as the production of ammonia and process at petroleum refineries where CO2 is produced as a byproduct and captured. If it’s not captured it’s released into the air. A portion of it ends up back in the air anyway after cycling through soda pop.

    • 0 avatar

      The reason for the switch to yf instead of R134a is due to the fact that 134a has a global warming potential (GWP) is roughly 1400 whereas yf has a GWP of 4. The reference point is CO2 with a GWP of 1. I’ll skip the politics of climate change, but that is the primary reason. If you check out the temperature and pressures of this new refrigerant and compare it to the 134a you will find that they are a very close match. What this means is that performance should be virtually identical to the old stuff.

      Why did conversions from the ozone killing R12 to 134a not work so well? Because the profiles of the refrigerants were different. Carmakers that changed refrigerants between model years but not between redesign simply used different expansion valves and compressor oil. Coil sizes remained the same. As a result you had weaker cooling capacity, especially at idle during hot weather. This is also why conversions of existing cars did not fare very well. Neither is the fault of the refrigerant. Designers caught on quickly, and systems designed from the ground up worked very well with 134a.

      So called drop in replacements often have propane or other highly explosive gases as an ingredient and should not be used. Another type of refrigerant is called a blend. R410 (Puron)is such a blend. Blends are ok, but they do work at higher pressures. Not really a big deal…More of a concern with blends is that they fractionalize as they leak out, meaning more of some compounds leak out than others. This means no topping off if low; you have to evacuate and recharge with fresh. Keep that in mind if your A/C repairman at home charges you to top off your system if it contains a blend.

      So is this new refrigerant more dangerous? Well, most refrigerants when burned create toxic gases. yf is mildly flammable, and no doubt when mixed with flammable oil and sprayed on hot metal it will ignite. Did anybody do the same tests with old refrigerants and post the results? Why do I suspect a similar result…Also, modern systems use but a fraction of the amount of refrigerant that they did in the past. Right now very few carmakers are making the move. Cost is the likely reason. Also the investment in new equipment means this will be a dealer-only repair for the near future. In the end the decision comes down to whether the reduction in GWP is worth it. I believe it is, but if you feel that man has no impact on the health of the planet you will likely disagree.

    • 0 avatar

      Registered just to comment. Yes this product may be relatively safe under normal conditions. However, normal conditions does not include accidents.

      As a firefighter/rescuer/hazmat tech the amount of training we must have to a avoid injury with modern vehicles is staggering. Our biggest threat when cutting open a car is all the air bags. Air bags can break necks and ribs (us and the passenger since we are not in a normal position) by cutting into wiring or charge systems in the pillars. High voltage wiring for hybrids.

      When a car is on fire? Plastics and cloths that are toxic and even deadly, magnesium fires melting everything, exploding batteries, hydraulic pistons rocketing past your head, even hollow drive shafts will violently rupture. Some bumpers, when super heated, ooze a fluoride product that does what is disclosed above and has caused many serious injuries. Now we have to worry about this product spraying from a rupture?! The hood or windshield may no longer be attached so no protection for us or the victims. Flourides are incredibly nasty stuff and hearing this? This bothers me.

  • avatar

    aristurtle, you simply cannot continue with your logical thinking. It will completely destroy this thread.

  • avatar

    Jellodyne, no one seriously thinks using CO2 in refrigeration systems will have any impact on greenhouse gases or global warming. That was just a silly, political joke. When you consider that every vehicle on the road powered by gasoline or diesel produces tons of CO2 every year, it’s obvious that a few leaky CO2 refrigeration systems would have a negligible effect on atmospheric CO2 concentrations, even if all of it had been obtained from fossil fuels.

  • avatar
    Ron B.

    Anyone here ever burnt R12?
    As some one who has done extensive work on refrigeration plant for 30 plus years I have seen and heard of most of the disasters possible with refrigerant.
    R12 when burnt gives you Phosgene. A tiny amount burning gives off a large green cloud (very visible!!!) which instantly takes your breath away. The alleged test done by someone using oil and R12 together sounds like utter B/S. No one would have survived the demonstration.
    R12 is heavier than air,so leakage caused the gas to flow DOWN not UP as purported by DuPont when the patent ran out.
    Remember the holes in the Ozone layer?
    R134a is actually going to be banned as it effect on the atmosphere is both well known and condemned by green groups.
    Hence a new gas from Dupont and yet another round of voodoo propaganda to support their company and shareholders.
    Does anyone here also realize that several million cars have been manufactured in the last few years with LPG mix as a refrigerant?
    Pure LPG will burn very nicely with oxygen but mix it with another gas and it’s ability to burn is reduced. It’s by product when burnt is carbon monoxide ,same as the exhaust gas. It will suffocate a human in large enough concentrations but it wont eat your flesh or drown you in in a toxic cloud as the alternatives will from Du pont. just ask the suvivors of Bopal what that is like along with the shameful response from another large US combine ( now defunct ).

    • 0 avatar

      Sorry to say, but the burning R12+oil video (picture? don’t recall) is gone; it was on George Goble’s personal website. (Goble is the nut that demonstrated how to light charcoal with LOX; the charcoal burns to ash in a few seconds, vaporizing the steel grill in the process. Utterly useless and spectacular.)

      Regardless, it wasn’t clear to me that the burning R12+oil-mist cloud burned very hot; the oil/R12 mix was sprayed from a “Dial-A-Charge” cylinder and made a burning cone about 2-3 feet in diameter and 5-6 feet long. The demonstration was done outside, and both participants were wearing eye protection (don’t recall if they had breathing masks).


    • 0 avatar

      The problems with the Bhopal plant appears to have been that local management cut corners, corners that I doubt the parent Union Carbide Corp. knew were being cut. Seven Indian nationals were prosecuted for negligence in the wake of the disaster so the Indian government obviously thinks there was at least some local responsibility.

      • 0 avatar

        Talk about Faux news. Sorry, I’m old enough to remember that vividly and nobody who wasn’t on the UCC payroll believes it was some decision made by the ‘local management’.

        Bhopal was designed from jump-street with far fewer controls and safeties than normal practice – UCC could have never built that plant in the US like that.

        It also used a dangerous (but cheaper than others use) way of making it’s chemical output – easy to find all this stuff for those who actually want to know something about what really happened.

        70% of the workforce was fired prior to the disaster – many because they wouldn’t disobey safety protocols. Of the few safety systems in place, many had been broken for 6 months to over a year.

        US management was FULLY aware of what was happening with the multiple years of neglect and disrepair. They knew all about the cost-cutting being done, because they ordered and directed it.

    • 0 avatar

      ….R12 is heavier than air,so leakage caused the gas to flow DOWN not UP as purported by DuPont when the patent ran out….

      Sounds logical except that R12 was readily sampled in the atmosphere…the argument that it sank and stayed down was debunked many times over….

  • avatar

    So I go and look this stuff up. Google is full of ads from Honeywell, the usual stuff – “The Truth about HFO-1234yf” etc., etc.

    I go to Wikipedia, and the link to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) at Honeywell doesn’t work. Wonder why.

    A lot of Google entries are refutations by Honeywell of everyone who has a problem with this wonderful stuff, going back years.

    The plant to make this stuff is already built, and Honeywell sure doesn’t want ANYONE to rain on their parade. Purchase a new Cadillac XTS and you too can have your own small supply.

    This VW announcement was just last month. Daimler praised VW’s position, after blowing their own whistle on the stuff this past summer.

    This is a UK/EC required MSDS. Says it’s extremely flammable, unlike Honeywell’s position.

    Who’re you going to believe? Germans who are scared of it, or the better living through chemistry folks already sitting on a new factory? History would tend towards the former, as chemical companies, like tobacco companies and Big Pharma will wriggle and twist to muddy the waters. Vioxx, remember that stuff? My mother cannot due to the three mini-strokes she had.

    I know where I stand. Good for you Mercedes and VW.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m no fan of HFO-1234yf (did I spell that right?), but, quoting George Goble:

      “If refrigerant+oil was used, about anything would burn, and it could not be used as a tool to keep out blends, etc..”

      With all of that, why are we arguing about refrigerant flammability in a car? You’re hauling around a tank containing 40Kg of gasoline! Many cars burn propane, or compressed natural gas; if that’s O.K., then what’s the problem with 1Kg of propane/butane in the A/C?

      As noted in the headline, the issue is not that HF-1234yf will burn; the issue is the nasty stuff produced when it is burnt.

      Propane is dirt cheap, makes a good refrigerant (it’s R600) and it doesn’t create phosgene or hydrogen fluoride gas when burnt. The official reason we don’t use it: it’s flammable. Instead, we’re getting HF-1234yf because it’s … less flammable. Doesn’t sound like a good tradeoff to me.


    • 0 avatar

      wmba, I looked at the MSDS you pointed out, and I’m astonished! Recall that the existing MVAC establishment says we mustn’t use hydrocarbon refrigerants in cars because of their flammability. If I understand HARP’s MSDS, then HF-1234yf is just as flammable as propane!

      Here’s wmba’s HF-1234yf MSDS link:

      Here’s a MSDS for R290, also known as Propane:

      wmba: Thanks! Very Informative!


  • avatar

    Niche gut.

  • avatar

    What is the risk of ignition for this stuff versus say charging an old r12 system with propane. It is my understanding the propane at least needs an underhood spark to ignite it in the event of a leak (as opposed to simply a hot surface like this stuff) and if you do manage to get it to ignite it doesn’t turn into a windshield eating lung filling up with fluids gas.

    CO2 will never fly. I doubt anyone holds the patent on Carbon Dioxide and as such no one can make the tons of money they make off the patented refrigerants. Its funny how around the time the patents expire we always seem to find out the current stuff harms the enviornment and we need to change.

    • 0 avatar

      While nobody has a patent on the chemical itself, CO2-based refrigerant systems will require better compressors and higher pressure plumbing than current systems, and these will be patentable.

      I hope Volkswagen goes through with it. I mean, in the name of personal safety, people are already driving around in behemoths larger than what the military was using 40 years ago, with more airbags than I can easily count, coupled with lane departure warning systems and radar-based cruise control and who knows what else; adding a sturdier compressor and thicker AC tubing in the name of safety can’t be that much more expensive, all things considered.

  • avatar

    Well that just scratched the ATS off of my new car list…

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    And there is also ammonia refrigerant R717. But again, it is toxic and flammable, although its pungent odor would make a leak relatively easy to find.
    Cannot be patented either…..
    As such, we won’t ever see it in a vehicle.

  • avatar
    Paul George

    Sounds awesome – can’t wait to upgrade my Brostang, Focunt, or F-342 to this stuff.

  • avatar

    Late to the party here because of reception problems but you are hitting on a pet peeve. Am still a licensed AC/refrig contractor who became too old to make a good living in the middle of all these changes. Servicemen used to just blow the load and expel moisture by flushing with freon. New regs made all that illegal (a good thing if you cared about your customer), then the refrigerants were outlawed. Suva was the first new approved one with which I am familiar. Guess who made that. Dupont answers come to the head of the class.

    The r12/r22/r504 and others were all outlawed. r22 without much proof it was harmful. It was so unstable that it probably never ate ozone. They were safe and efficient. So far as I am concerned watching the federal government at work is as distasteful as watching sausage being made. Aggressive enforcement of proper practices would have been sufficient but washington got their skivvies in a wad and went overboard. At least that’s one old guys opinion who used to watch that stuff get vented to the environment that it bothered me a lot before it was illegal.

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