European Commission to referee safety tests on disputed coolant

Article by Anita Panait, on August 12, 2013

The European Commission will referee safety tests being conducted by Germany's automotive governing body KBA over an air-conditioning refrigerant used in some Mercedes-Benz vehicles. According to the Commission, it wanted to guarantee the impartiality of KBA’s analysis of the refrigerant. The Commission also offered independent technical support for the probe.

A spokesman for Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani remarked that the main objective in mediating on the test is to reassure carmakers and consumers that the Commission wants to “ensure the principles of objectivity and transparency in the risk assessments."

French authorities in France have refused registrations of Mercedes A-class, B-class and CLA-class models produced since mid-June since they use refrigerant R-134a, a coolant banned by the EU due to its global warming potency. Daimler has remarked that its move to continue using the R-134a coolant is justified by safety concerns over the only available replacement, the R1234yf refrigerant produced by Honeywell International.

In late 2012, Daimler recalled all Mercedes-Benz cars that used 1234yf around the world, citing results of crash simulations that showed that Honeywell’s coolant was a fire risk. KBA is the first official body to probe of the validity of Daimler's claims.

However, KBA has received heavy criticism over the secrecy of its tests, results of which are due in the next few days. According to the new EU directive on global warming, new vehicles should not use refrigerants that are 150 times more potent than carbon dioxide. The old industry standard set the global warming potential at over 1,000 times that of carbon dioxide. On the other hand, Honeywell claims that the R1234yf refrigerant only four times more potent than carbon dioxide.

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