This past fall, the automobile manufacturer Daimler came out saying it was holding off using HFO-1234yf for auto air conditioning even though a directive from the European Union was calling for moving away from HFC-134a.

Since The NEWS and FROSTlines pretty much deal with stationary equipment, we don’t track the automotive sector all that closely. But in this case, the Daimler announcement was picked up by one of our industry trade associations, the Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI), and published on its website.

Some saw that as a question about how much traction HFOs were getting as long-term alternatives to HFCs in a wide range of applications should HFCs in general face a phasedown.

Well, early in 2013, HFOs showed traction with the announcement that another big automaker, General Motors (GM), was sticking with converting to 1234yf.

The Daimler fuss was over concerns the company had about flammability of the refrigerant, which has an A2L safety rating. It was reported that Daimler simulated a crash test and found that a mix of the refrigerant and oil from the a/c compressor could be ignited by the hot surface of the engine.

However, GM did its own crash tests, computer simulations, and thermal analysis and did not come up with the same findings.

Concern Over Something New

There always seems to be concerns about new refrigerants when they first come to the market. Look at all the attention to the high pressures of HFC-410A when it was first introduced. Now the refrigerant is about as common as they come. There was even concern about HCFC-22 in low-temperature refrigeration at the time of the phaseout of CFCs, and it ended up working so well that there are still supermarkets running most everything on R-22 even though low-temperature HFCs are readily available for retrofits. And what must folks have thought about Thomas Midgley Jr. in the 1920s when he and some others came up with CFCs. Yet those refrigerants ended up a part of the industry for 60-plus years and only got phased out over environmental issues which had nothing to do with the fact that they were great refrigerants for creating cooling.

Time will tell regarding the future of HFOs, but so far so good.

Publication date: 2/25/2013