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News - Getting ready for HFO-1234yf - the new air conditioning refrigerant

Last updated 19/07/2011 11:57 AM Article Ref: 353

Getting ready for HFO-1234yf - the new air conditioning refrigerant

The introduction of HFO-1234yf is a very significant development in automotive air conditioning. However, it is important to appreciate that the new refrigerant will only have limited impact during 2012 and well into 2013. By the end of 2012, it is estimated that fewer than 30 vehicle model types will have HFO-1234yf and to begin with, its availability will be restricted to vehicle manufacturers – hence its impact outside the franchise sector is most likely to be minimal. Given the company’s unique position in the UK A/C servicing market, Autoclimate is maintaining close contact with the vehicle manufacturers in order to exchange information about the latest position and will confirm the specification of its fully approved HFO-1234yf refrigerant management station in Q3 2011.

The story so far

Vehicles (categories M1 and N1*) receiving type approval** from January 1st 2011 must use a refrigerant with a GWP (Global Warming Potential) of less than 150. The current refrigerant HFC R-134a does not meet this requirement.

HFO-1234yf is the vehicle manufacturers’current refrigerant of choice - it meets legislative standards and requires minimal vehicle re-engineering.

All vehicles (M1 and N1 categories) which received type approval before 31st December 2010, can be produced with HFC R-134a refrigerant until 1st January 2017.

All new vehicles (all categories) produced from January 1st 2017 must use a refrigerant with a GWP of less than 150.

Given the time delay from type approval only a very small number of vehicles launched in 2011 will be equipped with HFO-1234yf.

The initial global production of HFO-1234yf will only be sufficient to supply vehicle manufacturers’ production requirements.

Further production is scheduled to come on stream during 2015.

There is currently no legislation or proposal for vehicles produced with HFC R-134a based A/C systems to be switched over to HFO-1234yf.

Autoclimate is committed to providing customers with accurate, up to date information and technical guidance.

*Category M1: Vehicles used for the carriage of passengers and comprising no more than eight seats in addition to the driver’s seat. Category N1: Vehicles used for the carriage of goods and having a maximum mass not exceeding 3.5 tonnes

**Type approval is the confirmation that production samples of a design will meet specified performance standards. The specification of the product is recorded and only that specification is approved.www.vca.gov.uk

Advice and guidance

There will be only minimum requirement for any servicing or repair involving HFO-1234yf during 2011. With only a limited number of 2011 vehicle launches affected, volumes will begin to grow slowly from 2012 and increase steadily from 2013 to 2015, before becoming more commonplace.

The number of vehicles on the road with HFC R-134a will continue to grow, as will the servicing opportunity. The serviceability of existing HFC R-134a RMSs should be maintained and if necessary replaced with new HFC R-134a dedicated equipment.

Continue to train staff in the handling of HFC R-134a and using the appropriate RMS. Autoclimate can provide refresher training if required.

If you are a franchised dealer plan to invest in an RMS to handle HFO-1234yf during 2012 or 2013, depending on expected workloads and vehicle profile. The cost of an HFO-1234yf RMS is likely to be higher than the current HFC R-134a machines – advise a budget of around £5,000. New leak detection equipment will also be required for HFO-1234yf A/C systems.

Due to limited availability of HFO-1234yf – which is likely to extend well into 2012 or later, the repair of any accident-damaged vehicles equipped with the refrigerant is likely to require vehicle manufacturer support for supplies.

Further information about RMS requirements, availability and pricing, will be provided as soon as it becomes available.

Autoclimate expects to make a customer announcement about RMS provision in Q3 2011. Franchised dealers should contact their manufacturer for the latest position regarding recommended equipment and any specific purchasing arrangements.

There are many elements relating to the introduction of HFO-1234yf and inaccuracies are inevitable. Beware of any misinformation. If you are unclear about anything – contact us. You may be able to avoid making an early and unnecessary purchasing decision.

It is illegal to re-gas a vehicle previously equipped with HFO-1234yf with HFC R-134a.

Latest News

Autoclimate is working pro-actively with both equipment and refrigerant suppliers to plan the introduction and support for HFO-1234yf. The company is the sole UK distributor for Robinair and one of the UK’s largest automotive distributors of HFC R-134a refrigerant.

The company is fully engaged with the vehicle manufacturers regarding the needs of their dealer network and advising customers who have specific requirements with the latest information about equipment and specifications.

Autoclimate is now working with HFO-1234yf servicing equipment and refrigerant. This is enabling technical staff to put the final details in place to support HFO-1234yf, and define the use of the equipment and customer training requirements.

Frequently asked questions

Q. We are a franchise dealer. If a vehicle with HFO-1234yf experiences an A/C fault, what should we do if we have yet to purchase a suitable A/C machine?
A. Please ask the vehicle manufacturer for their advice and also contact us for the latest technical information. With more vehicle manufacturer relationships and approvals than any other UK-based RMS supplier, Autoclimate is actively supporting the introduction of HFO-1234yf.

Q. How soon will Autoclimate be able to supply an HFO-1234yf A/C machine?
A. Although our final specifications are not confirmed, we are confident of having equipment ready in time for the arrival of the first HFO-1234yf equipped vehicles.

Q. If I am unable to source HFO-1234yf, may I use HFC R-134a instead?
A. No, it is illegal to re-gas a vehicle previously filled with HFO-1234yf with HFC R-134a

Q. I am an accident repairer. What if I have to repair a vehicle with HFO-1234yf?
A. As things stand, we believe that the chances of you seeing such a vehicle during 2011 and 2012 are low, given the number of known model introductions. Our advice is, that given that both the gas and a compatible A/C machine will be required, such repairs should be managed in co-operation with the appropriate franchise dealer.

Q. I run an independent workshop and my existing HFC R-134a machine is coming to the end of economic life. What should I do?
A. If it’s no longer viable to repair or service your existing machine, it would be appropriate to replace it with a new HFC R-134a machine. You are unlikely to see an HFO-1234yf-equipped vehicle for quite some time. Far better to get the best value from a proven piece of equipment, and by the time the service park for HFO-1234yf vehicles kicks in, the market will have settled and you will be able to make a well-informed decision. We do not advise that you tie up a large investment in an HFO-1234yf machine to sit idle.

Q. Why is it taking a while for Autoclimate to introduce an HFO-1234yf machine?
A. This is a very significant change for vehicle A/C systems. Autoclimate has vehicle manufacturer commitments to maintain and responsibilities for supporting a large number of workshops and repairers with their A/C servicing. HFO-1234yf is quite a different refrigerant to handle than HFC R-134a and we do not want to make any announcements or commitments to our customers until we have a good depth of experience with the new refrigerant and the RMS. We must also be prepared to meet the vehicle manufacturers’ requirements and be satisfied that our solution meets the relevant TUV, CE and the demanding German vehicle manufacturers’ VDA standards. Although this may sound a little over-cautious, we have the rare luxury of time to carry out the necessary preparations without undue pressures.

Q. I am considering the purchase of my first A/C machine for servicing and repair work. Should I invest now or wait until the position is clearer?
A. Servicing HFC R-134a-based A/C systems will represent the largest volume of business for some years to come. We certainly advise the purchase of a dedicated HFC R-134a machine to carry out this work.

About HFO-1234yf

• Developed and manufactured jointly by DuPont and Honeywell
• Has a Global Warming Potential (GWP) of just 4, the maximum is 150
• The performance characteristics are very similar to HFC R-134a
• Classed as a flammable refrigerant, albeit mildly. HFC R-134a is not flammable
• Lifespan if released to atmosphere is 11 days. HFC R-134a is 13 years
• The price will be higher than that of HFC R-134a, at least initially

If you have any further questions or concerns that are not covered in this communication, please do not hesitate to contact us. We will do our very best to keep you informed.

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