It wasn't all that long ago that the auto industry was under fire for its use of ozone-depleting chemicals in its air conditioning systems. To curb those fears, the older R-12 refrigerant was replaced with R-134a refrigerant. Interestingly enough, CO2, long associated with harmful automobile emissions, is being touted as a desirable natural replacement for the chemical substances used today. In fact, the German Automotive Association has already chosen to use CO2 as the next source for automotive air conditioning.

Another possible replacement for our current system is being proposed by DuPont and Honeywell. Known as HFO 1234-yf, it is a chemical refrigerant which is less efficient that current solutions. Safety concerns have also arisen regarding the flammability of the new chemical. For these reasons, auto manufacturers are meeting at an event next week in the appropriately hot climate of Phoenix, Arizona in an effort to make some sort of decision on how to proceed. We'll keep you updated.

Press Release:

Time is up for Choice of Sustainable Refrigerant in Cars

Ahead of key announcements at a major car industry event in Phoenix, Arizona, next week, Automotive Manufacturers are being urged to choose sustainable CO2 Technology in their next generation air conditioning, thereby dropping tests of less efficient, potentially toxic and flammable chemicals.

Many questions remain unsolved concerning HFO-1234yf, chemical refrigerant for vehicle air conditioning jointly proposed by DuPont and Honeywell. This new substance is potentially toxic, with unknown decomposition effects in the atmosphere and poorer efficiency than current R-134a based systems.

Moreover, the new chemical refrigerant is flammable. As shown by independent tests, in case of a vehicle front-end collision, the refrigerant could lead to an additional fire inside the passenger cabin.

"There is already a safe, sustainable, and global solution ready to be part of air conditioning systems today, namely CO2. We should proceed quickly to this transition, and avoid running the additional safety and environmental risks posed by chemicals for the sake of short-term economic benefits," concludes Petter Nekså, from Norway's leading Energy Research Centre SINTEF.

However, chemical giants are strongly promoting the substance in a bid to delay for as long as possible, a decision by car manufacturers in favour of the natural refrigerant CO2.

"Marketed over years by chemical companies, CFCs, HCFCs and HFCs have proved devastating for the ozone layer and the world's climate. These companies now have a historic opportunity to avoid past mistakes and stop promoting a new chemical with unknown effects on the atmosphere. This new chemical is potentially toxic and will prolong unnecessarily the lifespan of highly polluting R-134a used today. At least 3% of the worlds' greenhouse gas emissions is at stake," says Wolfgang Lohbeck, Head of Special Projects at Greenpeace.

[Source: The Alliance for CO2 Solutions]