By Steve Schaeber, MACS Technical Editor
Continuing on the conversation I had with Tom Morris of Honeywell, here is part two of Steve’s yf Blog series, covering some of what we discussed.
Q.Do you envision the heavy duty truck and/or off-road vehicle market using R-1234yf? Have there been applications for SNAP approval for expanded use of R-1234yf in new vehicles beyond cars and light trucks?
“We see no reason why they could not use it from a technical standpoint.” Tom explained that within the US there is SNAP (Significant New Alternatives Policy) approval, which is required for using a refrigerant other than CFCs in automobiles. SNAP approval for R-1234yf, as it currently exists, is limited to light duty vehicles, meaning passenger cars, pickup trucks, mini vans, SUVs, etc., and does not currently allow for larger vehicles. Morris commented that “before that could happen, the industry would have to conduct a risk assessment.” There are significant differences when you get into these larger vehicles, such as refrigerant charge amount, and they would just have to go through the risk assessments to confirm that other refrigerant could be used safely in those vehicles. However, unless there is a regulation or another business incentive, it’s unlikely they would switch from R-134a at this time. He further said that beyond refrigerant choices, the HD industry has other, perhaps more pressing issues to deal with currently, such as fuel mileage regulations. At the moment, EPA is saying you can use R-134a (in heavy duty vehicles) for the foreseeable future. However, as one may expect, once there’s an incentive or a proposed regulation, they might begin efforts to look at it. Tom also mentioned that while there may be no technical reason, there are no market drivers to push them towards it.
But doesn’t the SNAP list cover any mobile air conditioner; not just those in cars and light trucks?
According to Morris, SNAP assessments for R-1234yf were based on how “light duty” vehicles behave in accident scenarios. However, when discussing a heavy duty tractor trailer truck, often with a sleeper cab in back, you now have to consider things such as the number of hours of operation, much different crash scenarios, different ignition sources (sometimes sleeper cabs have cooking devices), along with air conditioning systems that contain three or four pounds of refrigerant. Tom went on to explain particularly that some off road vehicles have large cabs, large amounts of glass and could be operating in extreme external conditions. Many have significant air conditioning systems that may require minor changes to make sure HFO-1234yf can be used safely.
I asked Morris if this only applies to light-duty vehicles, then does the EPA have other regulations covering large trucks?
“Not specifically as it relates to the air conditioning system or R-1234yf,” although he explained there are regulations that relate to fuel economy standards. “Those trucks use a great deal of fuel, as you might imagine, sometimes operating 150,000 miles or more per year.” From a vehicle sales standpoint, this year there’s going to be about 16 million cars sold in the US, and for heavy duty vehicles it’s about 150 to 160,000 per year on average. “Certainly when I’m driving down the New Jersey Turnpike the number of trucks on the road doesn’t seem small, but compared to the amount of new light duty vehicles sold per year, it’s a relatively smaller number.” For truck manufacturers, focusing on the fuel economy issue is probably a bigger priority for them in the short term.
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