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2012: An A/C odyssey

The future is now, and it will impact how you treat A/C service going forward.
Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - 15:39
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GM will be the first domestic manufacturer to use HFO1234yf. (Photo: General Motors)

The Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) talked at its annual convention this year yet again about the debut of the new refrigerant. And while HFO1234yf was the focus of more than one conversation during January's event, there were plenty of other topics circulating that have an impact on the automotive A/C business.

First Things First

At past MACS conferences, HFO1234yf always was an event to expect sometime in the future. But not now. Is that all changed? Let's bring you up to speed on this move.

It started when the European Commission found that R134a was a contributor to global warming and banned its use as a mobile air conditioning refrigerant, effective with all new model platforms in the 2011 model year. R134a was not banned for use completely; it could and would be continued as the refrigerant of choice in vehicles already on the road. Several contenders were brought to the table for consideration, including one popular with many, R744 (carbon dioxide).

But the refrigerant choice that rose to the top of the pile and became the favorite was HFO1234yf, which also is referred to as R1234yf.

"There may be another refrigerant down the road," Neutronics' Peter Coll told a MACS audience during an open question and answer session. "There is nothing sitting in front of us that we are aware of that has been approved by an OEM. The general consensus is that we are moving forward with 1234yf. The industry would like to have a single refrigerant. It would make (the OEMs' lives) easier. It would make the life of shop owners much easier."

While it is only a requirement in the European Union, the feeling is that we will see a move to the new refrigerant in the U.S. as well.

"In the U.S., there are CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) credits available for going to an 'environmentally friendly' refrigerant" Coll added. "Instead of having to meet a 37.5 miles per gallon average, domestic OEMs can earn credits for improving other emissions-related areas on their vehicles that can be applied."

There were plans to have several 2013 domestic models appear here in the U.S. equipped with the new gas early in 2012.

"There is a shortage of HFO1234yf which was not originally anticipated," SAE Interior Climate Control Committee Chairman Ward Atkinson told Motor Age during an interview after his State of the Industry address. "Both North American and European manufacturers planned to have cars in production in (the spring of) 2012. But with the present situation, we're probably going to see a small number of cars produced, because right now the quantity of refrigerant is limited."

Paul Weissler, in an article for SAE Vehicle Engineering Online, reports that Honeywell (1234yf's manufacturer) is focusing on delivering most of the available product to Europe where OEMs are juggling production schedules to accommodate supply issues while remaining in compliance with EC regulations.

Atkinson adds, "General street talk is that we might not see sufficient quantities until the last quarter of this year."

But Honeywell also has a contract with GM. The domestic manufacturer intends to use the new gas in its 2013 Cadillac XTS and CTS models in an effort to earn CAFE credits. That should make GM the first to introduce an HFO1234yf-equipped model to the domestic market.

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