THE US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued final approval for the new low GWP refrigerant HFO1234yf designed to replace R134a in car air conditioning systems. It has previously been approved for use in Japan and Europe.
Meanwhile, opposition to the new refrigerant by environmental groups continues, particularly in Germany, where the car industry there had originally backed CO2 as the replacement for R134a.
Due to the current unavailability of stocks of 1234yf no cars have yet been introduced using the new refrigerant, leaving the industry open to accusations from environmental groups that car manufacturers are ignoring the EU ban on R134a which came into force on new models in January.
Environmental groups also claim that HFO1234yf is unsafe due to its mild flammability (A2L) rating and tests which they claim shows that the refrigerant forms corrosive hydrofluoric acid if it comes into contact with hot objects in the engine compartment.
The chemical manufacturers point out that HFO1234yf has undergone significant testing for safety and efficacy by independent testing groups, including the SAE International Cooperative Research Program, which comprises leading automakers. The SAE testing found HFO1234yf to offer 'superior environmental performance' to CO2 while having 'the lowest risk for use in mobile air conditioning systems in meeting environmental and consumer needs.'