Volkswagen officially joins Daimler in confirming CO2 MAC

By Janaina Topley Lira, Mar 08, 2013, 19:05 2 minute reading

Following Daimler’s findings that the chemical refrigerant R1234yf is unsafe for use in its cars, and their decision to further invest in the development of CO2 mobile air conditioning (MAC), Volkswagen (VW), the world's third largest carmaker, is following suit, making the game-changing announcement that they will use CO2 as the refrigerant in MAC.

According to the VW press release issued today, CO2 “is exceptionally well suited for AC systems in cars which are designed for CO2 refrigerants.  With a global warming potential (GWP) of 1, it beats the EU’s GWP limit of 150 by 99.3%.” VW joins Daimler, Audi, BMW, and Porsche in their commitment to drive the development of CO2 technology in MAC systems, although it is the first OEM to release a press statement on the issue.
Why CO2?
By 2018 VW aims to be the most ecological car manufacturer in the world and R744 is seen as the sustainable refrigerant that will allow the company to fulfil its environmental goals. Moreover the low-GWP alternative, the flammable fluorinated refrigerant HFO-1234yf, has been revealed to emit toxic HF when ignited, which could potentially cause harm to passengers and rescue personnel, as well as damage ecosystems. 
“In a further, decisive step towards climate and environmental protection, the company announces that it will begin using CO2 technologies, which will gradually be applied to the entire automotive fleet,” says the VW press release.
What happens now?
Whilst CO2 MAC technology was previously developed by leading OEMs and tier one suppliers back in 2008/2009, with a view to being commercialised in time for the MAC Directive deadline of January 1st 2011, further research will again be needed to design CO2 MAC systems that fit newer car models and production lines. VW has declined to say when it will begin to use R744 in its AC systems, but has spoken to several suppliers who estimate 3-5 years would be needed before the commercialisation of CO2 MAC.
A word of caution on this issue: back in 2007 BMW had also confirmed to a leading automotive news source that they would use CO2 as the refrigerant for air conditioning systems, but appeared to later turn away from the solution, with no CO2 MAC vehicles ever commercialised.  
What does this mean for the MAC Directive?
Earlier this year the German Federal Environment Agency (UBA) called for a further 3-year deadline extension for carmakers to comply with the EU Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) Directive, provided that they commit to introducing CO2 as the alternative to R134a.
The MAC Directive requires automotive manufacturers to use refrigerants with a GWP of less than 150 in all new models as from 1 January 2011. A two years delay had been granted by the European Commission to carmakers after it had become clear that the then preferred 1234yf was not readily available, but another 6 months extension request by German authorities earlier this year was officially refused. 
Does this mean non-compliance with the MAC Directive for another 3-5 years. In this case will they have to pay fines in order to continue to use R134a? continue to report on this rapidly developing story over the coming days.


By Janaina Topley Lira

Mar 08, 2013, 19:05

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