Credits For Dangerous Refrigerant Is The Latest In CAFE Loophole

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

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. W hile 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.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Pacificpom2 Pacificpom2 on Dec 30, 2013

    It's a pity that car a/c designs haven't come up with the air cycle machine used in aircraft. No refrigerants' just turbines, compressors mixer valves and heat exchangers. With the production of micro turbines and lightweight aluminium alloys, the only thing would be the initial costs. But it's safe for the environment, no nasty gases, no green house gases. Think of the children!

    • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Dec 30, 2013

      Essentially an A/C unit for a car works on the same principles, except it takes less energy to compress and expand a refrigerant. An aircraft style ECS system would be bulky, have much more weight and be more complex. I know the first thing most would say, then why use in aviation? Well, a gas turbine is a massive air pump and relatively uncontaminated air can be bleed off roughly halfway through the compressor to provide the necessary air and energy to operate the system.

  • Mypoint02 Mypoint02 on Dec 30, 2013

    As usual, follow the money...

  • Big Al from Oz Big Al from Oz on Dec 30, 2013

    Here is a link from Honeywell for the R1234yf. It appears relatively easy and safe to use if you follow the precautions and wear the applicable PPE (Personal Protective Equipment). I don't know if some here have ever worked with MSDS now SDS (Material Safety Data Sheets). I have to use these quite often to assess hazards and the associated risks for my guys at work. If anyone comes across a chemical they are unfamiliar with just google the name of the chemical followed by MSDS. This could reduce the risk of injury from lack of knowledge. In the case of this refrigerant I typed "R1234yf MSDS" into google.*&C101=*&C102=*&C005=000000011078&C008=&C006=HON&C013=+

  • MBella MBella on Dec 30, 2013

    Who is to argue with that? If Honeywell says it's safe than it most be so. They would have no reason to be less than truthful would they?

    • Felix Felix on Dec 31, 2013

      I believe MB. Honeywell makes this stuff so they will tell you anything to sell more of it. I can see why MB is running scared. If there is a fatality or injury arising from this, MB will be the one to get sued not Honeywell. Honeywell could wash their hands just say the product is safe and it's simply a poor MB design that allowed a heat source to get in contact with the refrigerant. I doubt it's a matter of cost because MB is one company that could easily pass on higher costs to their customers.