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Chrysler and R1234yf

by David Zatz on

An Automotive News article today announced that numerous Chrysler cars and trucks will have a new refrigerant, dubbed R1234yf by its inventors (Honeywell and DuPont), which has a much lower greenhouse-gas index (meaning that escaped refrigerant does not have trap as much heat as the current R134a refrigerant).

Standardizing air conditioning systems between American and European cars is one reason for the switch, but the article pointed out that EPA credits for R1234yf systems sold in the United States is more likely the deciding factor in Chrysler’s move. Using a refrigerant with a low greenhouse-gas index allows automakers to comply with new economy and greenhouse gas standards, and can trade excess credits with automakers whose lineup is less efficient.

R1234yf has a claimed greenhouse-gas index of 1, meaning it has the same impact on the atmosphere’s heat retention as carbon dioxide. R134a, on the other hand, has an index of 1,430, meaning it has 1,430 times the impact of carbon dioxide.

Nearly all climate scientists not employed by the petroleum industry and its lobbying groups have endorsed the theory of global warming, though it remains controversial in the United States and parts of Canada. Around 97% of Europeans and around half of Americans believe that global warming exists and has a human-caused component, according to recent surveys. Wikipedia noted that, in a meta-study of papers found that 97% of those with a conclusion “supported the consensus view that it [global warming] is man made.”  Generally, those involved in the automotive industry appear to believe global warming is a hoax.

The European Union will require all new passenger cars to use a refrigerant with an index of under 150. The new standards were nearly delayed by Daimler’s testing, which revealed a fire hazard. Daimler’s findings, however, could not be replicated by anyone else; continued testing by SAE to verify Daimler’s claims revealed that it was safe, and implied that Daimler had chosen a specific testing regimen to garner the desired result. Daimler and other German automakers have pressed for a system that would use carbon dioxide under very high pressures, which could be marginally safer but drag down fuel economy. Daimler, BMW, and Volkswagen-Audi Group are still free to use carbon dioxide-based systems, since these conform to E.U. standards.

Cars sold in the United States with the new refrigerant include the 2014 Chrysler 300/300C, Dodge Challenger and Charger, and Jeep Cherokee, with Dodge Dart and Ram 1500 scheduled to get the new system during calendar-year 2014; from GM, the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Spark EV; and the Honda Fit EV, Ranger Rover, and Range Rover Sport. The XTS and Fit EV were the first cars in America to use R1234yf, starting in 2013, but it appears that Chrysler will have the widest range and already has the largest sales numbers.

The major downsides of the new refrigerant are greater cost over R134a, which is extremely inexpensive when purchased in bulk, and the need for new equipment at dealerships; for a time, it may also be harder to have vehicles serviced at independent shops, though by the time the new cars are old enough to be leaking, the equipment is likely to be widely available.

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