The background: As from 2011 on, no new passenger vehicle is allowed to use a refrigerant with a Global Warming Impact (GWP) of above 150. This applies first only to new models while six years later would be applicable to all cars. By simply labelling a new car model as an old one with minor revisions, and hence getting a partial type approval excluding the air conditioning, the industry plans to continue using the same climate-damaging refrigerant R134a that was meant to be banned by the EU law. As a result, carmakers would deliberately undermine the intention of the EU Commission to reduce direct emissions of high global warming refrigerants to help fulfil obligations under the global Kyoto Protocol treaty.
A deliberate boycott of laws?
The Kontraste team, having investigated the issue over the last six months, came to this conclusion after unequivocal affirmations by Germany’s automotive industry association VDA to start serial production of CO2 MAC half a year ago had not resulted in any major contract signed with suppliers of the innovative technology up until now. At the same time, German carmakers having tested the proposed chemical HFO-1234yf had clearly stated that they would not use the flammable and toxic substance in future cars, but instead use the natural refrigerant CO2 (R744).
Late 2008, Thomas Schlick, VDA, affirmed that “car companies having already finalised all tests with the alternative refrigerant will now concretely put CO2 MAC into practice”. Asked by ARD again six months later, Schlick, speaking on behalf of all German car companies not wanting to reply to the Kontraste team directly, limited its answer about concrete progress on the mass production of CO2 Technology to: “There is a 2011 deadline to comply with this EU Directive and you can assume that we will comply with all laws.”
With the 2011 deadline approaching and time running out to prepare for a serial use of CO2 Technology, the only conclusion to be drawn would be that the industry is preparing for a prolonged use of current MAC systems beyond the 2011 date.
“Technology from the past in eco cars of today”
Asking all major carmakers at the Geneva auto show what are the next steps regarding environmentally benign MAC, no single expert was able to reply. The current environment bonus provided by the German government to consumers scrapping their old car and buying a more environmentally friendly model, would be a “sham package” as the car industry would not be willing to build truly green cars, as can be seen using the example of car air conditioning. “Technology from the past in eco cars of today” would deceive consumers and keep them from significant cost savings by using a CO2 system.
To demonstrate a clear support for R744, the Federal Environment Agency UBA, the Environment Ministry, and the leading German NGO Deutsche Umwelthilfe have now joined forces to promote the introduction of CO2 in Mobile Air Conditioning, the public transport and trains. An expert discussion will be held on 6 May in Berlin. R744.com will keep you updated on latest developments.