Refrigerants used in mobile air condition systems (MAC)
Questions & Answers
The Commission opened the infringement procedure in January 2014; why did it decide to send now a reasoned opinion?
The German government submitted its comments to the letter of formal notice in March,
and these elements were duly analysed by the services. The reasoned opinion that was
approved today (25 September) is a formal request to Germany to take the necessary
actions to apply the MAC Directive.
The Commission has an obligation to act regarding the non-conformity of the law, so that the climate objectives of the Directive are achieved and the law is uniformly applied throughout the EU. A precedent that gives one private company the right to suspend application of EU law, on whatever grounds, cannot be accepted.
Why is the Commission forcing Daimler to use a refrigerant R1234yf?
The MAC Directive is technology neutral and does not prescribe any system or refrigerant.
R1234yf was the refrigerant chosen by the industry to comply. The Commission remains
neutral regarding these decisions. It has however the duty to ensure that the EU law is
respected in the EU.
In other words, the Commission does not force or mandate the use of refrigerant R1234yf.
Why is the Commission opposing the development, by Daimler and other
companies, of CO2 MAC systems that would both be safe, and comply with the
The Commission has always supported a technology neutral approach. As long as the
objectives of the Directive are met, the Commission has no preference about the
technological solution chosen to meet them.
The MAC Directive (2006/40/EC) gradually bans the use of the current refrigerant R134a
(from 2011 to the general ban on 1 January 2017). The Directive does not prescribe a
specific refrigerant to be used to fulfill this obligation. This choice is of the sole
responsibility of vehicle manufacturers.
For several years (since the 1990s), refrigerant R744 (CO2/Carbon Dioxide – GWP of 1)
was studied in detail by the industry as a possibility to fulfil the MAC Directive objectives,
and several development projects were undertaken by industry and the authorities
(notably with important co-financing by the EU). Risk assessments and standardisation
processes for the use of CO2 as refrigerant in MAC were completed.
According to information available to the Commission, among the different options, in
2009 industry decided to use refrigerant R1234yf and only these MAC systems were
developed. Therefore, the development efforts regarding MAC systems using CO2 were
suspended at that date.
Some vehicle manufacturers have recently announced that they decided to develop
alternative systems for MAC using refrigerant R744 (CO2/Carbon Dioxide).
The Commission naturally has no opinion on this option, given that the only legally binding obligation of the manufacturers is for a gradual ban of the currently used refrigerant with high GWP – R134a (GWP of 1320).
Furthermore, all Member States have reassured the Commission that they are prepared to
implement the referred general ban on the use of R134a in MAC systems at the target
date of 1 January 2017.
It is speculated that Daimler has proposed a compensation scheme to balance
market conditions and impact on climate.
Why did the Commission reject this
In the context of the dialogue between the Commission and the German authorities a
compensation scheme for the non-conform vehicles that were put on the market by
Daimler in the first 5 months of 2013 (before the extension of old type-approvals) has
indeed been discussed. This compensation scheme would be a monetisation of the impact
of this action on climate change and on the competition situation.
The analysis by the Commission’s services is that this proposal was inadequate to respond
to the situation for different reasons, related to the lack of legal basis, the scope, and the
In fact the type-approval system in the EU does not foresee the possibility of monetary
compensations by the manufacturers to compensate for non-conformity with the safety
and emissions rules, for reasons that are obvious (“pay for disrespecting the law”).
Why is the Commission targeting Germany and not other Member States that
have similar practices?
The investigation of the German case is more advanced, given that it has been a German
manufacturer to declare, already in September of 2012, that it would not comply with the
The Commission has questioned all Member States about their approach to the situation.
Based on the information that was received from the Member States, the Commission
requested detailed information, via a Pilot letter, to the authorities of three Member States
that have informed of similar practices (extension of type approvals) by their respective
type-approval authorities, requesting more information on this situation. These Member
States have informed the Commission that in some cases these actions did not produce
any effect (Luxembourg) and in others they were in the process of being corrected (United
Kingdom and Belgium).
How can the Commission overlook the safety concerns that have been raised
(proved) by Daimler and other institutions?
Regarding the safety aspects of the use of the refrigerant, the Commission has seriously
considered the issue. There is a general consensus among stakeholders (with some exceptions) that the risks of the use of the new gas were known since long years and that
are technical measures that can be taken to mitigate these risks – as this is the case for
other flammable and toxic substances existing in vehicles.
In September 2012, one manufacturer (Daimler) raised concerns about the safety of the
use of this refrigerant in their vehicles. These concerns were challenged by other
manufacturers. This situation led the German authority in charge of market surveillance,
the KBA (Kraftfahrt Bundesamt) to proceed with its own testing. The KBA concluded, in
October 2013, that there was no evidence of a serious risk on the use of this refrigerant
that should entail the intervention of the authorities.
Given the importance of the safety issue, the Commission proposed to the Member-States,
as a confidence-building measure, that the Joint Research Centre (JRC) reviews the KBA
testing procedures. The review was performed by the JRC in an open and transparent
way, involving all stakeholders. This procedure was exceptional, given that the
responsibility regarding market surveillance in the EU falls under the remit of Member
In March 2014 the European Commission published a scientific review of the research
regarding the safety aspects of the use of refrigerant R1234yf on MAC systems. The
conclusion of this review was that, according to the existing legal framework on the
general safety of products, there is no evidence of a serious risk in the use of this
refrigerant on MAC systems under normal and foreseeable conditions of use.
The result of this analysis suggests that the automotive manufacturers have the means to
mitigate the inherent risks of the use of the refrigerant, which are known and have been
studied. The refrigerant is not the only fluid used in vehicles that is flammable or that may
cause formation of dangerous emissions when burning, and automotive manufacturers,
under their responsibility to provide for safe products, have found ways to mitigate these
risks in a way that is consistent with a high level of protection for the safety and health of
In the Summer France decided to ban the selling of Daimler vehicles in its
territory due to the non-application of the MAC Directive. What are the views of
the Commission regarding this decision?
On 26 July 2013 France has notified the Commission (under Article 29 of Framework
Directive 2007/46/EC) that it was taking temporary safeguard measures regarding the
registration on their territory of some vehicles, which could be in a situation of nonconformity with the MAC Directive.
In accordance with the procedure provided (in the same article), the Commission
consulted the Member States and requested additional information to the parties involved.
The Commission can confirm that it has received this additional information. The
Commission will draw its conclusions based on this discussion.
On 27 August 2013 the French Superior Court (Conseil d’Etat) suspended the decision by
the French authorities. On 5 May 2014 the Conseil d’Etat stated the that the serious harm
to the environment was not proved.
On 26 July 2013 France notified the Commission, under Article 29 of Framework Directive
2007/46/EC, that it was taking temporary safeguard measures regarding the registration
on their territory of some vehicles, which could be in a situation of non-conformity with
the MAC Directive.
The Commission took note of this decision by France and considered it in the procedure
related to the referred notification.
This decision by the Conseil d’Etat does not interfere with the on-going infringement
procedure regarding the implementation of the MAC Directive against Germany.
Given that there is a legal disagreement regarding the functioning of the type approval
system between the Commission and some Member States, how does
the Commission indent to act to avoid the repetition of such situations?
The Commission considers that the current situation in the enforcement of the MAC
Directive, and the risks that it entails for the functioning of the internal market have – in
several aspects – underlined the need for revisiting the Framework Directive 2007/46/EC
(Directive establishing a framework for the approval of motor vehicles and their trailers,
and of systems, components and separate technical units intended for such vehicle). The
Commission will present a proposal in the course of 2014.