THE European refrigerant fiasco continues, with the threat of antitrust action now hanging over Honeywell and DuPont in the European Union over HFO-1234yf while Mercedes-Benz owner Daimler is definitely allowed to keep selling new models that use R134a in France.
As HFO-1234yf is the only refrigerant that meets the standards set out in the European Commission MAC directive to replace the high global warming potential refrigerant R134a in vehicles, co-developers and manufacturers Honeywell and DuPont could be seen as monopolising the market.
According to Bloomberg, the expected antitrust complaint will be an escalation of a 2011 investigation into Honeywell and DuPont’s collaboration on 1234yf, originally prompted by French company Arkema.
It looked into alleged “deceptive conduct” by Honeywell when 1234yf was endorsed by a car industry trade group, and whether the fees for manufacturing the refrigerant under license are “fair and reasonable”.
David Smith-Tilley of London car industry consultancy IHS Automotive told Bloomberg that in addition to being “considerably more expensive” than R134a at the moment, 1234yf will attract a price premium for some time due to “patent-protected supply plus a more expensive manufacturing process”.
In France the Supreme court has upheld its August 2013 decision to over-rule the French Environment Ministry and EC MAC directive by lifting the ban on certain Mercedes-Benz models using R134a.
The Environment Ministry said the refrigerant emissions produced during the life of the 4500 Mercedes-Benz vehicles banned from sale would amount to 2,800 tonnes of CO2 equivalent.
It also argued that the precedent set by letting Daimler off the hook ruling carried the risk that other manufacturers would be encouraged to keep using R134a.
However the judge ruled that the number of models registered in 2013 using 1234yf refrigerant represented a tiny 1.74 per cent of the market and as such, the potential of this many cars switching back to R134a was not considered seriously harmful to the environment.
Just six per cent of new models registered in France last year used the new 1234yf refrigerant.
Honeywell issued a statement saying the EC MAC Directive can achieve the equivalent of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by eight million tonnes per year, or removing four million cars from the road – if “enforced broadly and effectively”.
“An estimated 1 million cars are already using HFO-1234yf safely, and the number is expected to double by the end of this year.”