Automotive Refrigerants of the Near Future

It seemed like yesterday when I heard the news that R12 would be phased out of production because it was harming the ozone layer.  To get us through, the industry adopted a new refrigerant, R134a, until a more environmentally friendly solution was available.  While the successor of R-12 is not an ozone depleting chemical, the widely used replacement, R-134a, scores high as a greenhouse gas, so, it too must eventually be replaced as an automotive refrigerant.

An E.U. directive that recently took effect which requires the refrigerant in new cars sold in Europe to have a global warming potential of 150 or lower has set in motion the switch to a new refrigerant.  Of all the potential refrigerant candidates, it looks like the accepted choice for U.S. manufacturers will be 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoroprop-1-ene, or HFO-1234yf, which is a hydrofluoro-olefin with the molecular formula  of CH2=CFCF3.

According to this General Motors press release, Refrigerant 1234yf  will make its début here in the United States in the 2013 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC, and Cadillac models.  A quick look in the owners manual of the 2013 Cadillac XTS  in section 8-14, under “Climate Controls – Service” says ” This vehicle may have the new environmentally friendly refrigerant, 1234yf.”  Also interesting to note they mention specifically, for safety, not to repair or replace the evaporator with parts from a salvage yard.  One can assume this is because the evaporator is fitted with a leak detection device or dump valve in case a refrigerant leak into the passenger compartment is detected.