This is a discussion of Dupont and Honeywell’s new refrigerant (R1234yf) and what happens when things go wrong, and how it is likely to happen. If you have not been following this issue, you can click the links below or this will give you an overview and allow you to make the right choice for you.
This is not about ‘Global Warming’, European Union laws, the merits of Dupont & Honeywell’s new refrigerant, or the merits of the German automakers choice for their new refrigerant. I see both refrigerant possible choices as BAD and UNSAFE for everyone.
Here are a few points from the discussions and finger pointing available all over the net:
German carmaker’s position:
The German carmakers have tested this new refrigerant and believe it to be unsafe. They feel that it poses a large risk of fire.
When a fire happens, it can quickly consume a car and its occupants.
Also this new refrigerant produces toxic hydrogen fluoride gas when it burns. The German carmakers believe it is so unsafe, they flatly refuse to use it.
This position is currently (July 2013) costing Daimler (Mercedes) serious money, because several of their car models are not in compliance with EU law, thus France and other countries are refusing to let these new models be registered.
Dupont and Honeywell’s position:
Dupont and Honeywell as well as several carmakers and the SAE all state they believe this new refrigerant to be safe.
Dupont and Honeywell state they have expended large sums to develop this refrigerant, and it’s ONLY viable use is in the automotive industry because of cost. Honeywell will not use it in home or commercial air conditioning systems they manufacture.
Dupont, Honeywell, several carmakers and the SAE do not disagree with the German carmakers that it can catch a car on fire and produces toxic hydrogen fluoride gas when it burns. Where they disagree with the German carmakers is the circumstances for that to happen and the likely hood of it happening.
The motives of Dupont and Honeywell in this ‘finger pointing’ must be questioned. The fact that three German automakers refuse to use it in their products (about 15 million vehicles annually) worldwide has got to be a serious blow to their profit projections. Not to mention that less sales means that most likely the cost to each carmaker for it will increase.
Several automotive organizations are expounding upon the virtues of this new refrigerant, and for all intents and purposes appear to be nothing but paid ‘mouth pieces’ of Dupont and Honeywell.
Is this new refrigerant risky?
Dupont, Honeywell, General Motors, SAE and others are openly attacking Daimler (Mercedes) in smear campaigns. If it is not risky or about profits then why are they doing this?
In the latest attack salvo Honeywell's European government affairs manager Tim Vink stated "We are asking ourselves why Daimler doesn't try to constructively resolve the problem instead of going it alone in refusing to use R1234yf."
Honeywell said slight changes to the air-conditioning system could be made to allow the gas to escape quickly in the event of an emergency, and that could resolve Daimler's concerns.
"It would cause only minimal costs per year, other manufacturers who have already taken that step tell us," Vink said.
In other words the other carmakers agree that there are huge risks associated with this new refrigerant and they have had to engineer safety systems for it.
Professional mechanics and car buyers should consider the risk.
I ask all professional mechanics to think of how many times your service adviser or boss has you do a quick recharge of an automobile air conditioner. Then consider the circumstances of that recharge.
Typically the circumstances are one of a customer driving in on a hot day and the air conditioner is not working. You are asked to take a ‘quick look’ and you discover the refrigerant is low or out. The engine and under hood area is usually extremely hot. Many of the components are not visually inspect able, so you decide to add some refrigerant and leak detector (oil with dye) to the system.
Now imagine if you will that scenario on one of the late model Chrysler minivans that were build with defective rubber hoses that burst open and sprayed onto the exhaust. Or that Ford Explorer that had a hose rupture and again the oil and refrigerant sprayed onto the exhaust.
When this happens with this new refrigerant on new cars you have placed your live in jeopardy from fire and toxic hydrogen fluoride gas. Even if you get the fire put out, it will cost your company money from the damages. Not to mention your health risks.
Now consider this from the perspective of a traffic accident. No one can predict with any certainty the circumstances and outcomes of a crash. What happens when the air conditioning ruptures and sprays the refrigerant and oil onto the exhaust or is ignited electrically. Can the occupants get out fast enough?
Yes, there are other flammable systems in cars already and yes they can catch fire, BUT they do not produce toxic hydrogen fluoride gas when they burn.
Both R134a and R1234yf may ignite when in contact with extremely hot surfaces or engine parts, releasing toxic hydrogen fluoride gas, but the Honeywell R1234yf refrigerant can do so at lower temperatures.
NOT a good scenario. Think this won’t happen?
The carmakers are building cars with a CALE (Corporate Average Live Expectancy) of 250,000 miles and more. The average driver drives 10,000 to 15,000 miles per year. So in other words these cars are going to last 20 years. So these parts will fail during that life cycle and this will play out many times over the car’s life.
This circumstances of possible fire is where we the public and that includes the independent professional mechanics, and shops that service these vehicles need to decide for ourselves if this is something we want or not.
We must decide, IF we owe Dupont and Honeywell a profit or is being in business and developing a product a risk they knew about and chose to accept.
I am not suggesting a boycott on those carmaker’s vehicles that contain this new R1234yf refrigerant.
If our governments force this product upon us, then should the government also force Dupont and Honeywell as well as the carmakers using it to set up an insurance policy to cover the potential damages (including loss of life) during the life of all these cars containing it?
After all isn’t the government’s role one of protecting is citizens? Isn’t protecting the people the reason behind the creation of government agencies like National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and Consumer Product Safety Commission?
What about the car insurance companies?
Their risk has just increased, and for that risk they WILL raise your insurance cost.
Don’t forget that Dupont and Honeywell have stated the cost of this product makes it prohibitive for other industries. This means that to service one of the cars, the cost is most like going to go multiples of the current refrigerant cost.
How many cars need to catch on fire from this? How many people need to lose their life or have severe health problems from this before the government takes action?
For me personally, I believe this new refrigerant should be banned. Yes I know it will financially harm Dupont and Honeywell if it were banned. But better them than lots of people killed or injured from it.
This is an open challenge to Dupont, Honeywell, and the automakers that have chosen to use their latest refrigerant. IF you truly believe that this product is safe, then you voluntarily setup that insurance fund for claims.
Dupont & Honeywell, Put Up or Shut Up!
For administrative purposes, set the insurance policy up under the supervisory control of the German carmakers. And fund that policy with enough money for all the claims over the life of the vehicles as projected in the carmakers CALE.
Here are some links to articles for more indepth study.
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