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HFO-1234yf is the Green Alternative for your Car's AC System

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By 2013 even General Motors will have replaced the older R-134a air conditioning refrigerant with HFO-1234yf, also known as 2,3,3,3-Tetrafluoropropene (mostly by chemists). To most of us, this is a bunch of scientific jargon that will have little effect on our lives. But considering this new AC compound can keep our cars and trucks cool with a massive reduction on environmental impact, maybe it could affect us more than we think. It has a global warming number rating of 4, which to the layman doesn't mean much, unless you compare it to R-134a's global warming number of 1200. Wow.

If you're interested, here are 10 interesting facts about HFO-1234yf courtesy of its creators at Honeywell, comparing it to the only other popular green alternative, CO2.

  1. HFO-1234yf has the lowest Life-Cycle Climate Performance compared to CO2 and HFC-134a, regardless of region. Calculations were made based on model tests for climates in Phoenix, Arizona; Frankfurt, Germany; Tokyo, Japan; and Athens, Greece. Results were presented by the JAMA-JAPIA consortium at the 2008 SAE Alternative Refrigerant Systems Symposium in Phoenix, Arizona in June 2008.
  2. CO2 air conditioning systems have higher indirect greenhouse gas emissions than HFO-1234yf systems because they are less efficient. This lower efficiency results in higher fuel consumption for the vehicle which creates more GHG tail pipe emissions.
  3. Unlike HFCs and CFCs which take generations to decompose, HFO-1234yf does not accumulate in the atmosphere creating long-term problems. A short atmospheric lifetime means less impact on the environment. HFO-1234yf is highly stable in the compressor system, and if it escapes, will not persist in the environment.
  4. Current car designs use low-pressure air conditioning systems. HFO-1234yf is compatible with these low-pressure systems and can be used as a replacement for HFC-134a with minimal reengineering of automotive systems. Because HFO-1234yf is a near drop-in, car manufacturers can more quickly and cost-effectively comply with the new EU regulations.
  5. CO2 requires a re-designed high-pressure AC system. As with many new designs, there are questions about reliability in the field due to the unproven technology.
  6. HFO-1234yf is as effective as HFC-134a, and offers comparable cooling performance in warm and hot climates.
  7. Energy efficiency of CO2 declines as temperatures increase which means greater fuel consumption to generate the power to operate the compressor, increasing tailpipe emissions and environmental impact. Therefore, CO2 is not a global solution.
  8. CO2 requires a new high-pressure air conditioning system and cannot be used as a direct replacement for HFC-134a. In order to adopt CO2 as a refrigerant, automakers would need to completely redesign their air conditioning systems.
  9. Thorough independent tests, including documented tests performed by the Society of Automotive Engineers and automakers using real-world conditions, have demonstrated that 1234yf is safe to use in mobile air conditioning.
  10. Due to the extremely high pressure and harmful health effects of CO2, the air conditioning system must be carefully designed to minimize the risk to passengers and service people.

For more info on HFP-1234yf, check out 1234facts.com

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