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Andrew Gaved, Editor

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US car giant GM publicly backs HFO-1234yf

American automotive manufacturer General Motors has come out in favour of using the refrigerant HFO-1234yf - the first public counter to the declaration by fellow carmaker Daimler that it is flammable.

A GM executive said GM conducted additional crash tests plus computer simulations after the German automaker raised questions about the refrigerant, named HFO-1234yf.

It was previously reported that Daimler engineers previously simulated a crash test and found that a mix of refrigerant and oil from the air conditioning compressor could be ignited by the hot surface of the engine, creating a toxic gas.

However, Curt Vincent, GM’s engineering manager for new refrigerants, believes that there is no issue to contend.

Mr Vincent told Automotive News in a phone interview: “We did crash tests, computer simulations and thermal analysis and did not observe any safety problems at all.

Many [researchers] have tried to repeat Daimler’s findings, but no one has come forward with anything that would indicate any concern.”

Daimler is recalling Mercedes-Benz vehicles that contain the product, while a Volkswagen spokeswoman says the company won’t use it “until further notice,” Bloomberg News reports.

GM’s Vincent and Honeywell Vice President Terrence Hahn both noted that a research consortium of 13 automakers has reaffirmed its earlier findings that HFO-1234yf poses no safety hazards.

The consortium re-examined its findings after Daimler raised its concerns.

“We tested it ourselves,” Mr Hahn noted. “We’re not going to sell this product if it’s not safe. We are absolutely convinced that the material is safe to use.”

GM already uses the chemical in the Cadillac XTS and in the European version of the Chevrolet Malibu. Over the next five years or so, GM will convert most of its models sold in North America to the new refrigerant, Vincent said.

It will cost GM about $75 per vehicle to switch to the new refrigerant and install redesigned air conditioners.

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