JULY 2008

Time is up for choice of sustainable refrigerant

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 1234-yf, a 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.

In addition, 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 Neksa, from Norway’s leading Energy Research.

However, chemical giants are strongly promoting the substance in a bid to delay for as long as possible, a decision by car manufacturers in favor 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 world’s greenhouse gas emissions is at stake,” says Wolfgang Lohbeck, Head of Special Projects at Greenpeace.