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10 questions and answers about HFO-1234yf

By Peter Coll, Neutronics Inc.
1)            What is HFO-1234yf?
HFO-1234yf is a chemical refrigerant that will be used in new cars in place of R134a.
2)            Who will be using the new refrigerant?
Over time, all vehicle manufacturers are expected to use the new refrigerant.  Some will introduce it sooner than others.
3)            Where will this refrigerant be introduced first?
This refrigerant will be first introduced in Europe, followed by the USA and others.
4)            When will HFO-1234yf be introduced?
As of today, Daimler Mercedes Benz will introduce vehicles to the market in September of 2011 in Europe.  Other European car makers will be close behind in Europe.  In the USA, General Motors is expected to deliver a few model cars to dealers with HFO-1234yf installed in March of 2012.
5)            Why are we changing refrigerants?
The simple answer is because R134a has been found to contribute to global warming.  The European Community has concluded that a replacement must be used in new vehicle platforms introduced to the European market after June 2011.  This was originally January 2011 but a six month extension was granted.
6)            Why are we changing in the USA and other countries?
While there is currently no law requiring a change in the USA, car makers are global companies and it makes more sense to them to use only one refrigerant worldwide in each model.  A second factor is the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) requirements in the USA.  Car makers selling in the USA must meet new fuel mileage standards in the next few years.  This is a little deceiving because it is not really fuel mileage but vehicle emissions that are regulated.  Emissions can come from the tail pipe or fluids used in the car.  Car makers can get a credit toward their fuel mileage targets by using environmentally friendly antifreeze, refrigerant, or other substances.  Some car makers in the USA are relying on these credits to meet their CAFÉ goals.
7)            Is there much difference between HFO-1234yf and R134a?
The two refrigerants are very similar in performance.  HFO-1234yf is classified as slightly flammable.
8)            How much will it cost?
Initially it is expected to be about ten times more expensive than R134a.  Yea that’s a lot of money.
9)            Will retrofitting be allowed?
Retrofitting R134a systems to the new refrigerant will not be allowed.  In fact, it would not be practical to do this due to the cost of HFO-1234yf.  It is possible that some shops will put R134a into HFO-1234yf vehicles.
10           How about new service equipment?
New equipment will be required.  In order to service HFO-1234yf systems, shops will need an SAE J2843 R/R/R machine, an SAE J2912 or J2927 Refrigerant Analyzer, and an SAE J2913 leak detector.  These tools are mandatory to comply with the EPA law.
When having your mobile A/C system professionally serviced, insist on proper repair procedures and quality replacement parts. Insist on recovery and recycling so that refrigerant can be reused and not released into the atmosphere.

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The 32nd annual Mobile Air Conditioning Society (MACS) Worldwide Convention and Trade Show will take place January 18-20, 2012 at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

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