Germany ordered to stop backing banned refrigerant

Article by Christian A., on September 28, 2014

The European Commission has ordered Germany to stop supporting a banned car refrigerant -- R134a --within two months. The Commission warned possible court action and fines if Germany fails to heed its order, which came after months of probe prompted by a refusal by Mercedes-Benz to stop using R134a.

R134a, a global warming agent more than 1,000 times more potent than carbon dioxide, has been banned by the European Union, but Mercedes’ continued usage of the refrigerant has even gained backing from Germany. The carmaker says its refusal to stop using R134a is due to safety concerns over the alternative R1234yf, which is developed by Honeywell in partnership with Dupont.

According to Honeywell, the R1234yf is less potent than carbon dioxide, although Mercedes parent Daimler claims that the alternative could emit a toxic gas when it burns. Any failure to take the necessary measures to comply with the request would prompt Commission to refer the matter to the European Court of Justice.

Germany’s minister for transport, Alexander Dobrindt, said in a statement the German auto industry would respect more stringent rules for refrigerants that will become effective 2017. He, however, noted that tests had shown risks with using the new refrigerant, saying it was understandable that the R1234yf is currently not being used.

A Daimler spokesman remarked that the carmaker’s position on R1234yf remained unchanged, adding it is still working on an alternative based on carbon dioxide that should be ready by 2017.

The European Union has a law requiring new cars to use refrigerants with a global warming potential no more than 150 times that of carbon dioxide. A diplomat told Reuters that Germany would reply to the Commission within two months and was talking to regulators. He added that Germany is still insisting that no EU law has been violated. [source: Reuters.com]

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