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The new A/C challenges

The days of R134a are nearing an end. What challenges will that bring us?
Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 06:00
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Daimler pulls out

Replacing the desiccant anytime you service an A/C system is always good practice and typically easy enough. But at least one make (Chrysler) is making this an unserviceable part on its 1234yf systems, requiring condenser replacement instead. Image courtesy of Delphi

Not long after these models made their way on shore, Daimler issued a press release that stated, in part, that its own testing revealed what it considered serious safety issues related to the use of R1234yf. Daimler also announced a recall of the models it already had produced using the new gas, and its plans to refit them with R134a.

On top of that, Daimler stated (for the record) that it would not abide by the EU directive and would continue to use R134a in its product lines for sale across the globe until a suitable replacement (in their opinion) could be found. To date, no other OEM has backed Daimler’s claim — although some German automakers have stated that CO2 is their preferred choice. This wasn’t all that surprising to some, because the German automakers had been relatively steadfast in their desire to use R744, and in their resistance to 1234yf, from the beginning.

This led to more soap opera developments than an episode of “All My Children.” Many criticized the methodology of Daimler’s findings and remarked that they, along with their German counterparts, had all been part of the original testing of the now-questioned refrigerant. Member nations of the EU were openly critical of the automakers’ refusal to meet the Directive’s requirements — and of the German government for enabling them to do so. In fact, formal infringement proceedings against Germany were initiated on Jan. 23, 2014.

Is it really a matter of safety? This is my personal opinion, but consider the facts: The German automakers were bent on using CO2. Other automakers were not so keen on the idea, though, for reasons we’ve already discussed. Daimler and the others were directly involved with the selection process, and even the German automotive trade association (VDA) called for a global consensus on what single refrigerant would be used, and for obvious reasons. After extensive testing involving more than a dozen vehicle manufacturers and even more suppliers, it was agreed that HFO1234yf would be the best choice.

Yet here we are. As one editorial review put it, it’s akin to the age of VHS versus Beta. Sony was convinced, until the end, that Beta was the better of the two. In my humble opinion, we are seeing a similar situation here. Only it’s not going to cost the manufacturers, it’s going to cost us.

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