The vote in the German Bundestag last Thursday called for a German ban on the refrigerant which is being introduced under the European MAC directive to replace R134a in car air conditioning systems. Ralph Lenkert, environmental spokesman for the Left Group, argued that the refrigerant is highly flammable and in the event of a fire formed toxic carbonyl difluoride and hydrofluoric acid.
He called on the federal government to agree on a transitional period with the EU to give car manufacturers time for the introduction of CO2-based air conditioning.
Despite supporting the basic intention of the proposal, the Green coalition party abstained and the vote was defeated.
The parliamentary vote is the latest in a saga of German opposition to the new refrigerant following tests by Daimler in 2012 first raised safety concerns. While subsequent tests by vehicle authorities, including Germany’s own Federal Motor Transport Authority, have all declared the refrigerant safe, German opposition has persisted.
In December, the European Commission referred Germany to the EU Court of Justice for its failure to apply the MAC Directive.
Officially known as Directive 2006/40/EC, the MAC Directive stipulates that air conditioning systems in motor vehicles type-approved after 1 January 2011 may not be filled with fluorinated greenhouse gases with a GWP higher than 150. This effectively bans the use of R134a, leaving the “mildly flammable” HFO R1234yf as the only production-ready refrigerant.