The conclusions of the scientific review of the research regarding the safety of refrigerant R1234yf in mobile air conditioning (MAC) systems, published today by the European Commission, concludes that, there is no evidence of a serious risk in the use of this refrigerant in MAC systems under normal and foreseeable conditions of use.
The review reinforces the conclusions by the German Federal motor authority the KBA (Kraftfahrt Bundesamt), which stated that there is no sufficient supporting evidence of a serious risk that would entail the intervention of the authorities.
The review of the 2013 KBA testing procedures was conducted as a confidence-building measure that the Commission had proposed to member states. The EC says the Joint Research Centre (JRC) reviewed the testing procedures and the review was performed by the JRC in an open and transparent way, involving all stakeholders.
In a statement, the EC said “In practical terms this assessment reaffirms the position of the Commission that the automotive manufacturers have the means to mitigate the inherent risks of the use of the refrigerant, which are known and have been studied. The refrigerant is not the only fluid used in vehicles that is flammable or that may cause formation of dangerous emissions when burning. Automotive manufacturers, as part of their responsibility to provide for safe products, have found ways to mitigate these risks in a way that is consistent with a high level of protection for the safety and health of persons.”
In a statement, refrigerant manufacturer Honeywell said that the conclusion “leaves no doubt that HFO-1234yf is safe for automotive applications” adding: “The JRC’s independent and unimpeachable report marks the final word on the safety of this environmentally friendlier refrigerant, which automakers are using to comply with the EU Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) Directive.
Thierry Vanlancker, president of fellow refrigerant manufacturer DuPont said “DuPont is pleased with the final conclusions of the JRC, as they reinforce our high level of confidence that HFO-1234yf can be used safely in automotive air conditioning.
“We note that multiple automotive industry groups, including the German Association of International Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (VDIK) representing 34 major car brands from all over the world and the SAE Cooperative research program comprising of 10 leading global automakers, have reached the same conclusion as the JRC that HFO-1234yf can be safely used in automotive air conditioning,” he added.
The review will be debated by the member states on 1 April 2014.
This latest report appears to leave Germany and sections of the German car industry exposed in its rejection of the use of low GWP refrigerant R1234yf on safety grounds. In September 2012, Daimler had raised concerns about the safety of the use of this refrigerant – the industry’s preferred choice to replace R134a – in their vehicles after its tests had questioned its safety in the event of a collision.
Daimler insisted that it would continue using R134a (with its GWP of 1300) until it had perfected systems using its own preferred option CO2.
As a consequence, Germany was issued with an infringement notice at the end of January for failing to enforce the MAC regulations, a law which bans refrigerants with a GWP above 150 in all new cars from January 1, 2013.
Despite Daimler’s stance being backed by tests by German green groups, tests by the KBA and a number of risk assessments by research groups of the SAE (the international society of automotive engineers) has all previously determined that R1234yf was safe.