HFO-1234yf is already a standard coolant in many cars in the US and the EU, despite its flammability.
HFO-1234yf is already a standard coolant in many cars in the US and the EU, despite its flammability.

In the wake of the agreement reached between 197 countries in Kigali, Rwanda on October 15 to phase out the use of climate-harming hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, new concerns have arisen over a replacement coolant compound known as HFO-1234yf.

HFO-1234yf, which is manufactured by Honeywell and Chemours, is already a standard coolant in many new cars in the European Union and the United States. The compound breaks down more quickly than HFCs, which makes it one of the few existing coolants in compliance with the Kigali agreement. But 1234yf is, according to this New York Times story, ten times more expensive than HFC – and also mildly flammable.

Honeywell emphatically disagrees and issued the following statement to BUILDER from a company spokesperson: “The safety of HFO-1234yf has been confirmed by respected third-party organizations, including SAE International, the most respected automotive testing organization in the world. Those conclusions were confirmed in 2014 by the European Unions’ Joint Research Centre, the EU’s top scientific and technical body. All major global automakers are in production today with vehicles designed to use HFO-1234yf because it is a near drop-in solution, proven safe for intended use, and capable of addressing both fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas emissions. There are more than 10 million cars on the road today safely using HFO-1234yf.”

Back to the Times:
“None of the people in the car industry I know want to use it,” said Axel Friedrich, the former head of the transportation and noise division at the Umweltbundesamt, the German equivalent of the Environmental Protection Agency. He added that he opposed having another “product in the front of the car which is flammable.”

SAE International, an engineering consortium that includes all of the major automakers, said 1234yf was “highly unlikely to ignite,” though the issue led to a brief split with German automakers.

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