By Jim Taylor, Editor MACS ACtion Magazine
We’ve written a lot here and in ACTION magazine about the delays, conflicts and general uncertainties surrounding the introduction of R-1234yf as a replacement refrigerant. The North American release of new vehicles using the product has been delayed for any number of reasons and many are beginning to ask what’s going on.
We are also discovering that the problem has longer reach and deeper roots. Remembering that the entire exercise is being driven by European legislation requiring low GWP gasses, one might think that Europe is well ahead of other markets in releasing both the product and related information on its use. One would be wrong.
In the Jan-Feb issue of the Automotive Airconditioning Reporter, a European industry magazine published in Netherlands, editor Ron Henselmans recounts the roadblocks being encountered on their side. With Ron’s permission, his “Dear Reader” column is reproduced below. His magazine is on the Web at auto-ac-reporter.com.”
“It is quite worriesome to notice that just before the number of supplies of cars with HFO-1234yf that are released from the factories will reach serious levels, it is still difficult to get information about the systems and the cars. Under normal circumstances the introduction of information and publicity about the systems, the cars that carry them and how good they are for the environment. Nothing of that here. Car, aircon system, and refrigerant manufacturers still draw up smoke curtains to hide the new refrigerant and its systems from too much publicity.
Even its price level is still unclear. When I sat down writing this introduction, the wildest rumours still went around. Not only about the price levels for the service industry but also about conflicts between car makers and refrigerant suppliers. Just think of it, within now and the next 12 months, approx. 1.5 – 3 million vehicles will be supplied with the new refrigerant. In some cases carmakers haven’t even reached price agreements with their suppliers.
This is of course unacceptable. The change from R-134a to R-1234yf may be more gradually, in terms of quantities it is many times bigger than the one from R-12 to R-134a. If prices for HFO-1234yf will really be so high as some say, ranging up to 10-12 times price for R-134a, not many may have realized yet that this does not only affect refrigerant suppliers and its direct customers, but may have an impact on the entire way of working in the industry. From the design of the system, handling the refrigerant, to much more accurate working procedures in the service industry. Don’t think that customers will be forgiving when costly refrigerant has escaped from his system after a repair of the system has failed.
Such a drastic change in thinking and working requires the necessary preparations. Such preparations also need to be implemented in time to be successful. Think of the training of service personnel and adapting service equipment and the working environment to the levels that are legally required. Speed is of high importance here.
Without any doubt manufacturers of alternative refrigerants are already luring to enter the market. Especially if it should turn out that handling HFO-1234yf systems and refrigerant is becoming uneconomic because of a lack of information, high price levels or costly safety rules by the authorities. The existence of even more refrigerants that would not only be harmful to the industry, but may even affect the popularity of auto aircon service and, as a consequence, the product auto aircon system as a whole.”
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