By on March 8, 2013

Daimler and Volkswagen reached an agreement over an air-conditioning refrigerant that Daimler claimed was flammable and extremely hazardous to one’s health.

Reuters reports that Daimler, together with Audi, BMW, Porsche and Volkswagen, will develop a “completely new A/C system that employs non-flammable carbon dioxide as an alternative to the new, flammable HFO-1234yf refrigerant.”

The current R134a used in virtually every A/C system will be banned in 2017, and HFO-1234yf had been tabled as the replacement substance. HFO-1234yf  is said to be more climate friendly despite the numerous health risks claimed by Daimler, including risks of fire and toxic gases that occur during combustion. But its maker, Honeywell, claims that Daimler is just looking to save money by not using the more expensive HFO-1234yf.

The EU mandate to use HFO-1234yf is still on the books. Daimler R&D chief Thomas Weber told Reuters during the Geneva auto show that Daimler would be prepared to pay the EU compensation for violating the directive, although he stopped short of calling it a “fine.”


Today, Volkswagen announced

“its entry into CO2 technology, which will be rolled out progressively over its entire vehicle fleet.

Entry into CO2 technology will further contribute towards climate protection. CO2 (carbon dioxide) as a refrigerant – also known as R744 – is a naturally occurring gas with significantly lower greenhouse gas effects than conventional refrigerants, and it is ideal for use in specially designed automotive air conditioning systems. With a GWP (Global Warming Potential) value of 1, it is 99.3 per cent below the EU specified GWP limit of 150. “

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36 Comments on “Daimler Appeases EU Over Refrigerant. Zetsche Declares “S-Class For Our Time”...”

  • avatar

    Honeywell wants to make money. Daimler wants a safe product. Of course CO2 is cheaper, but that’s not the most important argument.
    Backwards compatibility can be a problem and I think efficiency is less. Not as important as an intrinsically safe refrigerant.

    • 0 avatar

      toxic gasses during combustion? Hmmm….and this will happen when to the refridgerant?

      • 0 avatar

        When you crash. So, when you’re trapped in your S550, would you rather have C02 come streaming into the cabin, or a toxic engine bay fire?

        Crash safety is something automakers are generally concerned about, considering the market makes a pretty big deal out of it.

        • 0 avatar

          Use the gas that we expel when we breath or some incredibly complex synthetic gas? I’ll take co2.If your engine bay is on fire with all the various plastics and rubbers in there,the refridge is the least of your worries. Daimler is right to draw the line on this.

          • 0 avatar

            “If your engine bay is on fire with all the various plastics and rubbers in there,the refridge is the least of your worries.”

            You must have missed the article explaining that the toxic gas is an acid that dissolves glass.


  • avatar

    I thought the EU had gone completely socialist. Apparently there is a little crony capitalism left there after all, forcing all the automakers to use a refrigerant from one monopoly source.

  • avatar
    Jeff Weimer

    Could someone explain why R-134a is being banned? It was supposed to be the environmentally friendly replacement for R-12.

    Ah, nevermind. Looked it up. Apparently it’s Kyoto protocol. Has a “global warming potential of 1300”, whatever that means.

    • 0 avatar

      The same way petroleum, the original “alternative energy”, was more environmentally friendly than whale blubber. Technology marches on.

      • 0 avatar

        Actually petrol was way cheaper

        • 0 avatar

          And you didn’t have to sail half-way around the world to look for it either.

          Saw a PBS piece on the Rockerfellers last month, and they had a real problem early on in the lamp oil business – that light petrol (gasoline) that was left over was useless!

          • 0 avatar

            Yeah, talk about fortunate. You’re already fabulously wealthy, and then a product comes along that uses vast quantities of a byproduct of your existing business.

          • 0 avatar

            “Yeah, talk about fortunate. You’re already fabulously wealthy, and then a product comes along that uses vast quantities of a byproduct of your existing business.”

            Common occurrence in the oil biz, actually. People used to flare off the natural gas that came up with the petroleum…

    • 0 avatar

      The way I understand it is R-134a was never intended to be a permanent fixture, but a stopgap until preferable refrigerants could be developped.

      “Technology marches on.” Government madates in this case are marching on. Freon and R-12 worked pretty well.

      • 0 avatar

        Free people govern themselves.

      • 0 avatar

        OK I can understand climate scepticism to a certain extent. However the connection between Freon and the hole in the ozone layer is pretty undisputed. Now that Freon has been banned for decades, the ozone hole has stopped growing and is expected to decrease.

        I can not find anything sinister in a government policy designed to better protect everyone from skin cancer…

        • 0 avatar

          Not really interested in getting into an environmental debate.

          My point was that the predecessors to R-134a from a technological product standpoint already served their purpose well. R-134a represented a decrease in performance in the name of a mandate.

          Many customers would prefer better, cheaper air conditioner performance over attempts at mitigating the potential risks (however they may actually affect the individual) of ozone depletion.

          • 0 avatar

            And that’s why there is a mandate for government regulation in cases where individual decisions of consumers or companies will lead to a significant deterioration of the common good.

            A slightly higher price for air conditioners is a worthy price to pay for a significant reduction in skin cancer risk.

            Like with the ban of asbestos, I can’t really see how a reasonable person could see such regulation as a bad thing. Just because there can be overreach in some cases doesn’t mean the practice is evil in itself.

          • 0 avatar

            See that’s the debatable part that a lot of people aren’t comfortable with. Saying R-134a causes skin cancer is quite the stretch.

            Different materials have different levels of risk. Asbestos has acute and chronic effects with relatively low exposure levels.

            R-134a might cause a hole in the ozone, which might increase UV exposure to some people who may one day develop melanoma maybe. Where do you draw the line? Is any risk worth any cost?

            These costs should be weighed carefully. The new refrigerant isn’t cheap, and the cost will be passed onto consumers. They likely aren’t well informed about that.

          • 0 avatar

            Although R-12 systems worked better at the time, engineering has figured out how to overcome those issues, and today’s R-134a systems operate way better than any of the old R-12 systems did, and use way less power from your engine. This is what the Germans are trying to figure out with the CO2 systems. To make it work, they will have to design a very high pressure compressor that still won’t be too much of parasitic drag on the engine.

          • 0 avatar


            This is the most sensible post I’ve heard on the subject. Where do you draw the line indeed.

  • avatar

    Honeywell’s response, “that Daimler is just looking to save money by not using the more expensive HFO-1234yf” looks pretty ridiculous in light of their proposing to develop a CO2 system as an alternative. That simply has to cost more than simply going with the flow here.

    Screw the fire risk, I’m seriously not ok with the potential for an acid bath in-cabin after a front end collision. I’d also have to assume that any car company that continues to sell the R1234 systems will be on the receiving end of a nasty civil claim once/if someone dies from either cause. Not to mention the bad publicity.

    Another interesting aspect of this is that any defense of this product by government employees here or in Europe will be seen as the fruit of lobbying and bribery in general by Honeywell (whether justified or not). It sets up a dynamic where the car companies are leveraging their publicity machines and public opinion against the regulatory agencies, while Honeywell is forced to speak through 3rd party industry groups and “influenced” government employees. I’d give the advantage to the car manufacturers, although I’d bet anything Honeywell has a huge slush fund for political purposes.

  • avatar

    It’s ironic that the much-hated CO2 is admitted to being a naturally-occurring gas, yet ‘greener’.

    I thought CO2 only came from Republicans and SUVs.

  • avatar

    For good or bad it’s much easier to file personal lawsuits in the US and to get a class-action case going.
    In Europe it’s the Governments who usually do the suing.
    Daimler may be thinking it either has to come up w/a separate a/c system for the US-and given its sales volume,ouch!-or hope it never has to face a lawsuit from it’s financially better off customers.(And the first time a fire caused by the a/c melts the Botox off of some trophy wife’s face will ensure no one will ever buy a Benz in Hollywood again.)

    One potentially baaad consequence of the US-EU Free Trade agreement is that the EU’s regulatory system is more designed to make sure the paperwork is correct,not that the thing being regulated is safe.
    Since the EU is an artificial political construct,politics plays a huge role in the regulatory scheme and huge corporations seem to benefit quite nicely for some strange reason.

    • 0 avatar

      Basically every government in existence today (including the United States) is an “artificial political construct.”

      • 0 avatar

        th009 – I disagree, a lot of Governments/nations have evolved over time. For example the UK or France. Whereas the EU and some nations (like Yugoslavia in the past) were/are artificial constructs with the citizens having no emotional connection.

        • 0 avatar

          French territories were conquered in the middle ages. People in large parts did not speak French. Same was true of Italy which was created in the 1800s. Or Germany in the 1800s (Prussians and Bavarians did not think of themselves as Germans). United States was a collection of colonies turned into a single country. UK was a battleground of a multitude of invaders with borders running through various places. And even the Ireland was sliced off later as an independent country. It all just depends how far back in history you go.

          There are some I’d accept as fairly organic … maybe countries like Sweden or Japan.

  • avatar

    I’m glad to see the automakers banding together, coming up with an alternative to a bureaucratic mandate. It’s all a joke anyway. The soon-to-be-banned R134 refrigerant is marginally less damaging than the freon it replaced, but is significantly less efficient and more expensive. The new Honeywell concoction is more of the same, barely perceptible improvement with much less cooling efficiency at a much higher price. I suspect the band of auto brothers will run afoul of EU regulators anyway, since there’s a single producer of the mandated refrigerant, and a single source supplier has ways of persuading regulators to go to bat for it, IYKWIMAITYD.

  • avatar

    But I thought r-134 was supposed to fix everything? Now you’re telling me it’s ALSO bad for the environment. It’s almost as if these environmental scientists make it up as they go. Remember the hysteria about global cooling?

    Could Big Government and Big Business be teaming up. How long do patents last again? Naw, that’s tin-foil hat talk.

    We could be using propane, it would cool better, and is a lot less dangerous than the 20 gallons of gasoline sloshing around in your fuel tank that is piped into a device that lights it on fire. But there’s no royalties on propane, it’s cheap, and hydrocarbons are icky.

  • avatar

    “hydrocarbons are icky” You can say that again! Thank God we have huge unaccountable bureaucracies like the EC and EPA to protect us from them. You can die just from sticking your head into a bucket of Dihydrogen Monoxide.

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