25 Sept – In an unexpected move that has stunned the industry, Daimler AG, maker of Mercedes-Benz and other vehicles, announced today that it will not use refrigerant 1234yf. Their press release said:
Daimler has provided relevant authorities with the findings of an investigation which raises questions on the safe usage of the new internationally recognised R1234yf refrigerant. Up to now, the climate-friendly chemical was set to be used worldwide in the automotive industry and was previously perceived to be safe. This was determined by numerous laboratory and crash tests carried out by international vehicle manufacturers and independent institutions.
Despite multiple confirmations of non-critical results, Daimler carried out a series of additional tests on the new refrigerant as part of a new real-life test scenario developed in-house which goes above and beyond the legally prescribed requirements.
In the new real-life test scenario, the refrigerant is dynamically dispersed at high pressure near to hot components of the test vehicle’s exhaust system. This corresponds to a serious head-on collision in which the refrigerant line is severed and the reproducible results demonstrate that refrigerant which is otherwise difficult to ignite under laboratory conditions can indeed prove to be flammable in a hot engine compartment. Similar tests of the current R134a refrigerant did not result in ignition.
Due to the new findings of this study and the high safety demands at Mercedes-Benz, this chemical will not be used in its products. The company therefore wishes to continue to use the proven and safe R134a refrigerant in its vehicles.
Daimler has already informed the relevant authorities of these facts and will also make the results of this investigation available to all relevant associations as well as to other vehicle manufacturers.
It is much too soon to assess the ramifications of this decision; some are already saying it marks the end of the chemical as a replacement refrigerant because other makers will follow Daimler’s lead. Others wonder how this will square with the EU requirement to use low-GWP refrigerants in all new cars.