Mercedes-Benz Raises Safety Concerns
Mercedes-Benz has warned the motor industry that new air-conditioning coolant could cause fires, the Daily Mail has reported. However Honeywell - the manufacturer of the new refrigerant - has strongly rebuked this conclusion. European rules require motor manufacturers to phase-in the new coolant between 2013 and 2017 as it is more environmentally friendly than the older/current alternatives. The HFO-1234yf coolant will therefore be used in millions of vehicles over the next few years. Air-conditioning is standard on the vast majority of new cars, after all. As such, Mercedes-Benz performed a series of tests relating to air-conditioning coolant leaks. These can occur during an accident or as a result of a fault. According to the Daily Mail Walter Pütz – Mercedes-Benz Cars Director of Vehicle Certification and Regulatory Affairs – concluded:
“The whole vehicle can catch fire and the burning refrigerant generates acutely poisonous hydrogen fluoride which poses a severe danger to both passengers and rescue workers.” A Mercedes source added: “It doesn't explode like in the movies. But there is a boom and a ball of fire”. The Daily Mail has also said that Daimler – Mercedes-Benz' parent company – said that: “Due to the new findings of this study and the high safety demands at Mercedes-Benz, this chemical will not be used in its products.” However, the company may have no choice if it wants to comply with the law.
Honeywell – which has 132,000 employees worldwide and expertise over a range of industries - has stressed that its new coolant is safe. The company has therefore emphasised the findings of the SAE International Cooperative Research Project that included experts from eleven global motor manufacturers. Their conclusion was that “the high level of confidence” that SAE has in the safety of the refrigerant “continues to grow.” SAE International also stressed that the refrigerant “posed no greater risk than any other engine compartment fluids.” The Cooperative Research Project also concluded that the testing conducted by Daimler (parent company of Mercedes-Benz) was “unrealistic” and used “extremely idealised conditions” while ignoring actual collision scenarios. Terrence Hahn - Vice President and General Manager for Honeywell Fluorine Products - therefore said: “The SAE’s latest evaluation combined with years of other extensive testing leaves no doubt that HFO-1234yf is safe for automotive applications”.
I suspect this story will run and run.
by Stephen Turvil, motoring.co.uk: 22nd Feb 2013 14:55:00
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