Mobile air-conditioning: impacts of MAC directive

The European directive on mobile air-conditioning (MAC) entered into force in 2006. It introduces a gradual ban on greenhouse gases in passenger cars and light commercial vehicles. Since January 1, 2011, new vehicles‘ air conditioning systems must be filled with a refrigerant with a lower GWP. R134a has been banned totally since January 2017. All cars must be equipped with a system with a GWP below 150.

In this context, the use of the low GWP refrigerant R1234yf is at the heart of the debate.

In Germany, the car manufacturer Daimler delayed the introduction of R1234yf in its vehicles, under the argument that it is slightly flammable. Daimler sought to develop a CO2-based air conditioning refrigerant instead. Additionally, the Japanese manufacturer Sanden recently confirmed that it is supplying CO2 compressors for Daimler.

In 2015, the European Commission referred Germany to the Court of Justice of the European Union, alleging that Germany has infringed EU law by allowing the car manufacturer Daimler to place automobile vehicles still using R134a on the market, but the cars were type-approved to use the R1234yf alternative gas. This case has still not yet been heard in court. The Federal Motor Transport Authority of Germany recently took action, however, by issuing a recall of all the Daimler-built cars that were fitted with R134a when they were supposed to be fitted with R1234yf. This could represent 134,000 Mercedes vehicles.

The R1234yf refrigerant is also the reason for a long dispute between the French manufacturer Arkema and the US manufacturer Honeywell. Arkema has brought its case to the European Commission several times since 2011, because Honeywell and DuPont’s patents on R1234yf prevent Arkema from commercialising its own product, even if they owned proprietary technology to make it. Arkema filed a new complaint in June 2017, saying it is convinced of compelling new grounds for the EC to pursue an abuse of dominance case.

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