Car industry divided as refrigerant choice nears

By team, Jul 23, 2007, 00:00 2 minute reading

With the 2011 deadline fast approaching, manufacturers are moving closer to choosing the next-generation refrigerant. Although barely represented in the programme, CO2 (R744) was widely discussed by experts meeting at the SAE Alternate Refrigerant Symposium.

Even if chemical alternatives are being considered, European carmakers will continue to invest in the development of CO2 Technology for Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC). This message emerged from the Alternate Refrigerant Systems Symposium, held from 17-19 July in Phoenix, USA. Global car manufacturers, suppliers and public authorities discussed key drivers and latest developments that could influence the choice between chemical blends and the natural refrigerant CO2. Key issues discussed included toxicity, flammability, ozone depletion, and cost efficiency of the proposed refrigerants.

Carmakers divided on next refrigerant

Although Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) intended to make a global common decision on the next refrigerant, this scenario seems more and more unlikely. This was confirmed by the German carmakers' association VDA, expecting German OEMs to take different decisions individually. The VDA will, however, in no case support the flammable alternative HFC-152a favoured by some non-German OEMs.

Given that MAC consume up to 20% of extra fuel, and the fact that the current refrigerant HFC-134a will be phased out in the EU starting from 2011, both the European Commission and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urged the car industry to choose an environmentally safe option. ACEA, representing Europe's OEMs, stressed that it "will do its best to meet the deadline of 2011".

CO2 could change global car industry

--image1--The choice of refrigerant could have a far reaching impact on the global car industry, changing established relations between suppliers and OEMs. As an example, the use of R744 could offer a competitive advantage to suppliers already investing in innovative CO2 Technology and manufacturers seeking to strengthen their "green" profile.

During informal discussions, a leading US supplier raised the chances of R744 winning over chemical alternatives to 60%. This is a far more promising figure than estimations made back in February 2007 at the other annual key meeting in Saalfelden, Austria. J├╝rgen Wertenbach, representing the VDA, confirmed that "all R744 issues are solvable", with costs for the switch to CO2 Technology dropping steadily as mass production comes closer.


"As expected, this key meeting did not focus on CO2 in most of the presentations. On the contrary, it provided an opportunity for chemical blends to update the car industry on latest developments. However, you could sense that CO2 was in the back of everyone's minds," observed Marc Chasserot, Managing Director of Shecco.

"We are now at the crossroads for Mobile Air Conditioning. Climate change is happening, severe regulations are planned. You [the car industry] have now a significant opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions," Stephen Andersen from the EPA.

Next steps

With the car industry expected to decide on the next refrigerant soon, the German carmakers will discuss this issue on Thursday, 26 July.

More news on

During the next days, will be adding more articles on the outcomes of the SAE event. Please check for daily updates to our special feature.


By team (@r744)

Jul 23, 2007, 00:00

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