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Germany’s Big 3 reject new air conditioner refrigerant – potential for fire and toxic gas!

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Mercedes test result

Another German automaker has rejected the air conditioning refrigerant that’s scheduled to be adopted by global automakers in 2017. Earlier this month, Volkswagen lined up with Daimler and BMW to support Daimler’s findings from last year that the new refrigerant, called HFO-1234yf, can become flammable.

Volkswagen says it will be rolling out its own carbon-dioxide-based air conditioning systems. The European Union wants to have HFO-1234yf, which was designed by Honeywell and DuPont, replace the coolant currently in use, HFC-134a to significantly reduce CO2 emissions and its global warming potential. Daimler engineers discovered HFO-1234yf could spark a fire under the hood, with the potential to destroy the car and emit highly toxic gas while burning.

An automotive working group – the Cooperative Research Program – was formed last year to study the matter. Daimler conducted its own flammability tests and became concerned enough about vehicle safety to leave the working group, along with BMW. Volkswagen’s Audi division also expressed concern and is now part of Volkswagen’s decision to join ranks with its German allies and dismiss adoption of HFO-1234yf as the new refrigerant.

European Union Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani appears unwilling to accept the decision by Germany’s “Big 3″ automakers or a written request from German ministers asking for a temporary suspension of the new EU law. While Tajani said he would listen, he also said that he would begin infringement proceedings against any member state that did not comply with the new rules. “Since there was some information from Germany there was a problem, I am obliged to ask for information, but it’s not giving them time. I am not weak,” Tajani told Reuters.

…Honeywell and Dupont would be holding a billion-dollar monopoly starting in 2017 if HFO-1234yf goes through. They’re bound to support Industry Commissioner Tajani’s decision.

Our stalwart EPA has no official position on the question. Though, with Honeywell and DuPont being global corporations headquartered in the United States, the pressure to make this dangerous chemical the only acceptable refrigerant for domestic auto air conditioning is liable to be overwhelming.

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Written by Ed Campbell

March 25, 2013 at 2:00 pm

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