• Apr 28th 2009 at 5:08PM
  • 8
Following a directive first created back in 2006, the European Union has passed down a ruling that would force European automakers to find a new refrigerant to use in their vehicle's air conditioners. There's some debate as to the timing of this mandate, as it's no secret that most automakers are in a fight to just remain in business.

Regardless, the EU's latest ruling will ban the current R-134a coolant starting in 2011 for both new vehicles and aftermarket solutions. At present, there isn't a commercially available alternative that's ready to use in our current A/C systems, but there are a number of new chemical formulations currently being tested.

One interesting alternative is carbon dioxide, the same greenhouse gas that internal combustion engines emit when burning fuels. If used in car A/C units, the CO2 would need to be stored at extremely high pressures to be effective. Although CO2 does contribute to global warming, conventional hydrofluorocarbons are considerably worse.

[Source: Autocar, Guardian]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 8 Comments
      • 6 Years Ago
      Hey cool, that is the HVAC controls from the Honda Element.
      • 6 Years Ago
      "Although CO2 does contribute to global warming, conventional hydrofluorocarbons are considerably worse."

      Good freakin' grief!

      Current CO2 atmospheric concentration: ~400 ppm. The "m" is "million".

      Current R134a concentration: ~60ppt. The "t" is "trillion".

      GWP for R134a relative to CO2 is about 1300 (over 100 years). So we have R134a's current impact on the climate to be (1300*60ppt)/(400ppm), or about 1/5000th of CO2.
      • 6 Years Ago
      @mdf

      Is that a reason not to improve?

      Remember it is stagnation that has put an end to U.S. manufacturing. Corporations fell asleep on their crowns while the rest of the world feverishly worked on improving their products.

      Don't take challenges as something negative, they are a source of innovation.
        • 6 Years Ago
        First, a correction:

        http://www.ipcc.ch/ipccreports/tar/wg1/248.htm

        CO2 forcing is about 0.015 W/m^2/ppmv.
        R134a forcing is about 0.15 W/m^2/ppbv.

        Put in the concentrations observed today and we get R134a's contribution to be about 1/700'th that of CO2. Compare this with CFC-12, which has a current effect about 1/9'th of CO2. This is about ~100x larger than R134a,and is due to the fact that the GWP of CFC-12 is ~10x larger than R134a, and that the concentrations of CFC-12 are about ~10x higher than R134a.

        "Is that a reason not to improve?"

        1) Whether or not there is a "reason" to improve, the statement as made is simply false: 1/700 is not "considerably worse", unless we are allowed to pervert the language.

        2) Let's not compound one absurd statement with another: I'm afraid that solving the R134a "problem" is not going to pull any economy out of the toilet. If only because the solutions are going to be inevitably more expensive in some way. It is equally unlikely that any innovation in this area will have broader application.

        3) In the grand scheme of things re: global warming, R134a is pretty well unmeasurable. Recall that economic and physical resources are finite. One is better advised to attack climate problems in order of impact and cost. The "low hanging fruit" in this case is CO2 'production' itself: any resources taken from that solution and given to something else (like finding and producing replacements for R134a) are arguably being squandered. Given the relative scales of production, even minute reductions in CO2 emissions will have an impact far larger than if we removed every last molecule of R134a from the atmosphere.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Yeah I see no problem with using propane or ammonia, at least until we improve the efficiency of peltier junctions. Oh and the danger isn't of global warming but of ozone layer depletion.
      • 6 Years Ago
      There is a much more efficient refrigeration agent. The original Freon, banned by the loony tunes in the Montreal compact, before they went back and lookeds at the old data from before thier was fluoro-carbon in the atmosphere and the Ozone holes existed over the South Pole then, too.

      It is compounded by recent research that shows that all fluoro-carbons including the banned ones, are much less reactive with Ozone than originally thought, in the rush to judgement, to do something, anything, if even if it was wrong and stupid.

      It helped of course that all the fluoro-carbon makers and the AC makers knew that a different fluoro-carbon would mean lots of new sales, so they went along too, Quite happily.

      • 6 Years Ago
      My understanding is that propane works pretty well as a refrigerant and is almost a drop-in replacement for HCFC134a. The only trouble is that it's flammable if it gets out. The response is that it shouldn't get out unless there is a front end collision, and if that's the case, the fuel for the engine is a much bigger problem.
      • 6 Years Ago
      R134a has been in a twenty-year phaseout since the moment it was approved in the US too.

      R134a is still a CFC, it just adds hydrogen (HCFC) to it so it is doesn't rise into the upper atmosphere as easily where it can do damage.

      HCFCs were always to be transitional.

      I hope we have good alternatives ready, we've had a while to do it.