Much of the global automotive industry has adopted R1234yf as the standard refrigerant in new cars, primarily due to tightening overseas legislation over the global warming effect of refrigerants released into the atmosphere.
R1234yf has a far lower global warming potential than R134a, which has been the sole industry standard refrigerant in automotive air conditioning since it replaced ozone-depleting R12 in the 1990s.
Unlike the switch from R12 to R134a there will be no need to change existing air conditioning systems over to R1234yf, because R134a will continue to be available for servicing older equipment.
R1234yf carries an ASHRAE rating of A2L (mildly flammable) and is subject to Dangerous Goods class 2.1 handling and transportation requirements.
However R1234yf is not easily ignited and struggles to sustain and propagate a flame compared with A3 (highly flammable) rated hydrocarbon refrigerants available to the aftermarket but never used or approved by OEMs.
Flammability concerns about R1234yf are held by some car manufacturers – most notably Mercedes-Benz, which has contravened European law by refusing to adopt it – meaning it is inevitable that additional new refrigerants will start to enter the market in the near future, making the job of the automotive air conditioning technician more complex.