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Air conditioning refrigerant: R-1234yf not fully tested

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E actually the bad omens should have been taken seriously as a warning. 'The production technology for R-1234yf is not yet in operation on a large-scale,' it said at the turn of the year 2011 in a background paper by the Federal Environment Agency (UBA) on the new refrigerant. The results of tests carried out by the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing with R-1234yf were even more explosive: It is highly flammable, and when it comes into contact with hot surfaces - such as on the exhaust manifold - or in the event of a fire, it produces very toxic and highly corrosive hydrofluoric acid /p>

Now, a year and a half after the 'EU regulation on certain fluorinated greenhouse gases' came into force, which sealed the end of the conventional refrigerant, the debacle about the new one is perfect: In theory, new vehicle models have been available since January 1, 2011 no more type approval if the air conditioning system is not filled with an environmentally friendly substance. But the only manufacturers Honeywell and DuPont do not deliver in sufficient quantities - at least not to Europe.

Old refrigerant may be used until the end of 2012

That is why the industry directorate of the EU Commission sent on April 18 of this year a fire letter to all automakers. There is talk of delivery bottlenecks at the two refrigerant producers. The reasons given are, on the one hand, that the earthquake in Japan damaged the factory located there and, on the other hand, the Chinese authorities have so far refused the production permit for the large-scale plant located in the Middle Kingdom due to a lack of evidence of health protection. As long as R-1234yf is not available, according to the letter from the Industry Directorate, the car manufacturers are allowed to use the old means for newly type-tested vehicles until December 31, 2012.

The EU authority subsequently legitimizes the type approval practice For example for the new Mercedes B-Class - due to a lack of the new substance, it went on sale with the old refrigerant R-134a. The European, especially the German car manufacturers are pissed off. Asian and American competitors are being served by Honeywell and DuPont, while the Europeans are waiting in line. This is what the EU Competition Directorate brought into action. At the beginning of December, she initiated antitrust proceedings against the two chemical giants, which are supposed to check whether they hold a dominant position and are abusing it.

Property right for license conditionswas revoked

But that wasn't enough: Nine companies - including international chemical companies, but also the industry association ACEA, BMW and Daimler - had filed an objection to one of the Honeywell patents. After just one day of negotiations before the European Patent Office on March 27 of this year, the authority revoked the property right granted for license conditions according to the landlord style, with which Honeywell wanted to secure a super deal.

And the refrigerant crime thriller goes on. The European Chemicals Agency ECHA put R-1234yf on the list of chemical substances suspected to pose a risk to health or the environment. Germany has undertaken to evaluate the substance according to the EU chemicals regulation REACH by February 2013. The Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health is in charge - the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment and the UBA are also on board.

If the suspicion is confirmed, the EU Commission will work up a sweat. The German car manufacturers, on the other hand, would not need to come up with a lot of new ideas - air conditioning systems that run on the particularly environmentally friendly natural refrigerant R-744 (CO2) had already been developed ready for series production before the industry switched to the chemical warehouse in 2010 .

Chronology of the scandal

September 2007: The German automotive industry decides on the future use of CO2 as a refrigerant.
February 2008: Honeywell and DuPont present the refrigerant R-1234yf to the industry.
October 2008: Initial investigations document that the substance is flammable and that it forms extremely toxic gases in the event of a fire.
May 2010: The German automotive industry officially decides on the future use of R-1234yf as a refrigerant.
June 2010 The final report of the Federal Institute for Materials Research and Testing shows once again that the use of R-1234yf is associated with dangers .

What customers need to know

For buyers of new vehicle models, the disaster surrounding the new refrigerant has no consequences whatsoever Consequences. Daimler, for example, announced in February that the switch to R-1234yf would take place as soon as the new substance was available in sufficient quantities from the suppliers.

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