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More pressure on German carmakers over HFO 1234yf

EC denies German authorities’ latest request for six month extension to MAC Directive and use of R134a refrigerant, as car research group SAE underlines confidence in HFO 1234yf.

The European Commission has written to the German Ministry of Transport to tell them it cannot have the extension it requested to the use of R134a, increasing the pressure on German carmakers to fall in line.

The head of the EC’s Enterprise and Industry directorate Philippe Jean reiterated to the German Ministry of Transport that previous justification for extensions was no longer relevant, since they related to the supply issues with HFO 1234yf.

“Since that problem has been resolved, as expected in the last quarter of 2012, an extension is not possible. Therefore we see no grounds to relaunch such a decision process.”

The news came at the same time as car research group SAE international announced it had continued confidence in HFO 1234yf.

SAE said: “As the Co-operative Research Program continues to review relevant research and testing to finalize the risk assessment, the high level of confidence that R1234yf can be used safely in automotive applications continues to grow. The findings of the original CRP remain well founded in that R1234yf poses no greater risk than other engine compartment fluids.”

Last week, BMW and Audi resigned from the CRP, reportedly in solidarity with Daimler, which is still refusing to use the new gas, following its belief that HFO 1234yf ignites in a head on collision, whereas R134A doesn’t.

SAE added that while it regretted the resignation of German carmakers from the group, the team of carmakers on its Co-operative Research Program had found Daimler’s head-on collision test ‘unrealistic’. It suggested that Daimler had created “the extremely idealised conditions for ignition while ignoring actual real world collision scenarios. These conditions include specific combinations of temperature, amount and distribution of refrigerant, along with velocity, turbulence, and atomisation, which are highly improbable to simultaneously occur in real-world collisions.”

SAE stressed that its testing was comprehensive, including over 100 engine compartment refrigerant releases.

In return the Commission has asked the German ministry for urgent clarification over what Daimler was doing with the cars that it recalled late last year, which were type approved for HFO1234yf, as well as a ‘definitive report’ from the German safety authority KBA substantiating the flammabilty concerns. Based on those answers, the EC will then make its judgement on further proceedings.

MEP Chris Davies, who has been vocal in his criticism of Daimler’s stance, said of the latest development: “EU law is absolutely clear, and HFO1234yf has been authorised for use. If car manufacturers are putting on the market new types of vehicle that have air conditioning using a refrigerant with a global warming potential of more than 150, such as R134a then it is up to the government of the country to prevent them from doing so.”

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