Vehicle air-conditioning developments

Vehicle air-conditioning developments

An industry roadshow shared the latest in auto air-conditioning refrigerants.

Representatives from CoolCar Air-Conditioning’s six centres in Auckland and Hamilton attended to stay up to date.

VASA, an industry body that represents automotive air-conditioning, electrical and cooling technician members in Australasia, teamed up with Refrigerant Reclaim Australia, Refrigerants Australia and the Australian Refrigeration Council to take the 2016 roadshow to Auckland and around Australia.

The seminar was well attended by people from the automotive air-conditioning and refrigeration sectors, suppliers, government and regulators.

While R134a is currently the main refrigerant in use, there have been a lot of developments in this area. Attendees heard about new vehicle refrigerants HFO1234yf and R744.

In the quest for a refrigerant that meets strict new low global warming and ozone depletion performance criteria, a novel chemical, 2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene has been adopted by the majority of new vehicle manufacturers following extensive testing.  This refrigerant (known as R1234YF) is mildly flammable. In the past, automotive refrigerants have been strictly non-flammable.

The lower and upper flammability limits for the refrigerant, how it disperses when released and how that compares to other, more highly flammable substances which might be used as refrigerants were discussed, and why HFO1234yf was selected.

High-end Mercedes models are expected to come equipped with carbon dioxide (R744) as refrigerant in the near future.  These systems will have much higher operating pressures than existing systems.

Specialised engineering of components is required to cater for R744 and the high pressures required.  Proper expertise in the diagnosis, service and repair will be required to keep repairers and car owners safe.

Peter Roper from CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centre, Manukau says, “as members of VASA, a lot of what we heard at the future:gas roadshow was a refresher, but it’s good to know our understanding is on the right track.

“Cars with HFO1234yf have been around for several years and originally presented challenges whenever service was required. This was because the new refrigerant could not at first be purchased for use in these systems.”

However, this was resolved when the manufacturer of HFO1234yf, Honeywell, received approval in New Zealand for HFO1234yf to be treated as a permitted substance under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act 1996.

“This was pleasing news”, says Peter. The air-conditioning season kicks off in October every year and we see more vehicles with HFO1234yf systems in need of attention by our skilled team.

“CoolCar Air-Conditioning Centres have received training in Australia in the operation of HFO1234yf systems and have seen the refrigerant perform in our own workshops. We have a good appreciation of how HFO1234yf is like, and unalike, the current refrigerant R134a.

“R134a has high global warming effects but it’ll be around in motor vehicles for many years to come”, he says.

“New Zealand has yet to announce any phasedown plans for the importation of refrigerant R134a.”

Australia has announced phase out timelines and we expect New Zealand will follow.