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Honeywell stands by safety of R1234yf

GERMANY: Honeywell has announced today that its stands firmly behind the safety of HFO1234yf following last week's announcement by Daimler that it would not be using the new refrigerant in its vehicles due to its flammability.
Daimler, the manufacturer of Mercedes-Benz vehicles announced that it would be continuing with R134a following the results of additional tests it had carried out on 1234yf in real-life test scenarios which went above and beyond the legally prescribed requirements. The tests were said to have demonstrated that the new refrigerant could ignite in a hot engine compartment in the event of a head-on collision.

In a second response to the German car manufacturer's announcement, Dr Ian Shankland, Honeywell's chief technology officer, said 'We believe that a unilateral decision by one automaker to work on its own is contrary to the way the industry assesses the safety of new products.'

While Honeywell has not yet met with Daimler to discuss the tests, Shankland said: 'We are not aware of any in-house testing conducted by Mercedes-Benz that examined areas that have not already been adequately addressed in the past.'

Honeywell has pointed out that HFO1234yf was the subject of comprehensive testing conducted within the Cooperative Research Program of SAE International, an independent global association formerly known as the Society of Automotive Engineers, using proven, standard methods for evaluating new products and materials in automobiles. That testing, Honeywell maintains, which was sponsored by 15 global automakers including all leading German automakers, concluded that 1234yf was safe for use in automobile applications.

According to Honeywell, the SAE programme specifically addressed the issue of flammability in its testing, employing 'fault-tree' risk assessment techniques to assess and evaluate the real-world possibility of a fire and human impact. These studies were based on the sequences and combination of failures that would have to occur for the new refrigerant to ignite. As a result of that analysis, the SAE program concluded 1234yf was safe even under extreme conditions. In a press release issued in November 2009, SAE International said: 'From the evaluations and test results it has been concluded that HFO1234yf can be safely accommodated through established industry practices for vehicle design, engineering, manufacturing and service.'

'Rigorous and comprehensive studies conducted in Europe, the U.S. and Japan have repeatedly concluded that this product is safe for use in automobiles,' added Dr Shankland.

'As part of the SAE program, internationally recognized laboratories including Hughes Associates Inc, France's Institute National de l'Environment Industriel et des Risques (INERIS), and Exponent Engineering and Scientific Consulting conducted extensive testing on flammability and safety, and all have concluded that HFO1234yf is safe for use in automobiles.'

'Automakers routinely use materials in their vehicles that are much more flammable than HFO-1234yf, and they are able to do so through design that minimizes the risks. There is no reason to believe the same approach cannot work in this case, and in fact, the OEMs have already taken these steps in vehicle issues to ensure safety,' he added.

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