Automakers dispute A/C refrigerant safety issue

General Motors' Opel division is adding metaphorical fire to the real dispute over a new air-conditioning refrigerant's potential flammability.

Opel recently ran crash tests with an SUV using a refrigerant, called HFO-1234yf, that is being pushed by the European Union as a way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Contrary to earlier tests by Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, GM says the product isn't flammable, Reuters reports.

HFO-1234yf was developed by Honeywell and DuPont. Despite a crash test that destroyed the car's A/C unit and caused it to leak, Opel says it did not cause a fire. The EU is pushing for HFO-1234yf to become standard refrigerant by 2017.

Last year, Daimler conducted its own tests and found that the new refrigerant catches fire and releases toxic fumes in the event of a crash. And last month, Volkswagen, Europe's biggest automaker, backed Daimler's claims and said it would try to develop its own carbon-dioxide-based A/C systems as a way to meet the EU's requirements.