U.S. will follow Europe in banning R-134a refrigerant

Last week, Europe took yet another step toward the elimination of the R-134a refrigerant from the A/C systems of future vehicles by formally accusing Germany of skirting the European Union (EU) environmental laws. The EU claims that Germany set aside the EU law for the purpose of giving a single German carmaker an unfair economic advantage over their competitors.

You may recall that Daimler has rejected the use of R-1234yf on the basis that Daimler vehicles could catch fire in the event of a component failure of the A/C system. All other vehicle manufacturers have determined that their cars are not at risk because their designs prevent this from occurring and they have determined that the Daimler scenario is unrealistic. 

Sooner or later, this saga will end, but in the meantime, the U.S. EPA is set to follow the EU lead and ban the use of R-134a in new vehicle production at a yet-to-be announced future date. By then, it is expected that most, if not all, carmakers offering vehicles for sale in the U.S. will have already moved away from the R-134a refrigerant to take full advantage of the fuel mileage credits being offered by the EPA. These credits are designed to reduce overall vehicle emissions and to assist the OEMs in achieving the 54.5 mpg Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate required in the U.S. by 2025.

Make no mistake, doubling the average mpg on new passenger vehicles in a mere 10 years is no easy task, and the carmakers will look very closely at every little morsel of help they can get.

Peter Coll is vice president of Neutronics Refrigerant Analysis, a division of Neutronics Inc.