Environment and Climate

Air-conditioning systems and refrigerants

Climate protection is a priority for the German automotive industry.

Development air-conditioning systems and refrigerants

Climate protection is a priority for the German automotive industry. This applies not only to increasingly efficient engines, but also to improving vehicle air-conditioning systems. By 2017, new requirements will apply in Europe. As of the beginning of 2014, all new type-tested vehicle models must be charged with a climate-friendly refrigerant. Starting in January 2017, this requirement will apply to all new cars. In order to be considered climate-friendly, a refrigerant must have a greenhouse factor of less than 150. This greenhouse factor (GWP, global warming potential) is a measure of the climate harmfulness of a refrigerant in relation to the climate effect of CO2. A GWP of 150 means that one kilogram of the refrigerant that escapes into the atmosphere has 150 times the climate effect as one kilogram of CO2. However, the refrigerant R134a, which has been used since the late 1990s, has a GWP of 1,430, so it greatly exceeds the limit. Therefore this refrigerant must be replaced. 

As far back as the beginning of the 1990s, the automotive industry began to look at possible alternatives to the coolant in use at the time. Since then, two refrigerants have become established as alternatives. R1234yf is already used in many new vehicle models. As with the previously used refrigerant R134a, it can also be used in the car at the previous typical pressure level of around 30 bar. R1234yf is also largely compatible with the existing technology in existing airconditioning systems. Starting in January 2017, the majority of new vehicles in the EU will be equipped with this refrigerant. CO2 can also be used as a refrigerant, and in this context it is referred to as R777. CO2 technology has now been developed for series production. This took a lot of effort because the refrigerant‘s peculiar characteristics, such as high system pressures, necessitated a complete redevelopment of all the refrigeration circuit components. The VDA, together with the standards committee Automotive, has developed an extensive system of standards for components of CO2 airconditioners. This ensures a uniform global standard that makes mass production of such components possible by applying standardization.

Climate effect and damage caused to the ozone layer by coolants

Coolants Climate potential (GWP) Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP)
R12 10890 Yes
R134a 1430 No
R1234yf 4 No
R744 (CO₂) 1 No
Source: VDA
Dr. Stefan Wöhrl
Dr. Stefan Wöhrl Head of Department Environment policy and technical environment protection

Tel: +49 30 897842-300 Fax: +49 30 897842-600
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