UPDATE: Industry reacts to announcement by Daimler, Audi, BMW, Porsche and VW to develop CO2 MAC systems 

By Janaina Topley Lira, Mar 20, 2013, 12:44 6 minute reading

At the Geneva Auto Show, taking place from 7-17 March 2013, Daimler made public that it will develop CO2 mobile air conditioning (MAC) equipment, together with Audi, BMW, Porsche, and VW. A press release by Volkswagen, confirming that they will use CO2 as the refrigerant in MAC was released shortly after. R744.com reports on industry reactions to this important announcement. UPDATE: Reaction by Konvekta to the CO2 M

The declaration of intent to use a CO2, which has a global warming potential (GWP) of just 1, -based MAC system, made by German carmakers Daimler Audi, BMW, Porsche and VW follows safety concerns regarding the refrigerant HFO1234yf. One technical expert working with a wide range of industrial coolant systems said that in his view 1234yf was a particularly flammable toxin that should not be standardised. 
Despite these concerns, whether or not CO2 MAC technology will be commercialised, and if so when, remains to be seen. R744.com asked several leading industry players to give their reactions to the announcement and comment on the timeline for CO2 MAC commercialisation, whether they think the switch to CO2 will actually happen and what impact this would have on the market.
R744.com: What is your reaction to the Daimler/VW announcement that they will further invest in CO2 mobile air conditioning (MAC)?
Markus Schwerdtfeger, Kaco: We are waiting to be approached by our "old" contacts for further instructions. This means: If there is a clear commitment by our customers to restart this development. We will analyse if there is real business case. Anyway in the case of a restart, we would have to adjust our capacities to commence the development process. Markus Schwerdtfeger, Managing Director Technical and Commercial, Kaco.

Andreas Moritz, Wieland-Werke: On the one hand I'm glad about that. On the other hand I'm sad to see that so much time, money and ressources have been spoiled during the last years not because of technical reasons but because of lobby work. Andreas Moritz, Business Development, Industrial Tubes, Wieland-Werke AG.
Armin Hafner, SINTEF: R744 represents a long term and sustainable solution for MAC’s, and there is an especially high potential for compact solutions for new vehicle platforms (electric vehicles/ hybrid vehicles) to improve comfort and increase the mileage of these cars (Heat Pump option). Armin Hafner, Researcher SINTEF.

Claudia Mittelstaedt, Konvekta: We appreciate the decision of VW and Daimler to migrate to CO2 as a refrigerant in their vehicles. We believe that it is the right step towards efficiency, protection of our natural environment and safety.
R744.com: Given that CO2 MAC systems will need to be redesigned to take into account recent advances in technology when do you think R744 will be commercialised for AC systems? 

Juergen Koehler, IfT, University of Braunschweig: Based on a common decision that CO2 will be used as refrigerant in car air conditioning systems I think that we still need about 5 years to commercialize R744 for car AC systems. Juergen Koehler Prof. Dr.-Ing., Institut für Thermodynamik (IfT), University of Braunschweig - Institute of Technology.
Kaco: As we are had been working for more than 10 years on this project, we have seen many ups and downs. We have seen many commitments, which were broken afterwards. This time some OEMs are committing themselves officially. Last time was mainly through the VDA. Finally we would need to be officially invited to restart the development. 
Wieland-Werke: Two years, I guess. 
SINTEF: This depends on the contracts and conditions between OEM’s and TIER 1 suppliers. It will take time to reorganize the teams at the TIER 1+2 suppliers, since most of the R744 MAC activity was stopped some years ago. There is a good chance to develop R744 MAC systems until the HFC-134a sunset in 2017.

Konvekta: For mass production in cars it realistically will take another 4 years before CO2-based air conditioners will substitute more than 20% of the obsolete technology in the western world. For niche applications the technology will already be available earlier, i.e. buses, e-cars etc.
R744.com: In the past, OEMs have indicated a preference for CO2 but have then changed course, shelving development of CO2 MAC in favour of HFO refrigerants. Do you think that the Daimler/VW announcements are more credible than those made in the past? What has changed?
Kaco: We still have some doubts, about what could happen if anybody later considers a CO2 MAC system as not being suitable form car implementation - another decade of R134a?
Wieland-Werke: Not sure how credible this is. They like surprises. But they obviously have no real alternatives anymore. But if someone comes along and presents a new alternative I'm pretty sure it will be considered (which would lead to a further delay).

Konvekta: The chemical industry had made promises they could not keep. The misevaluation of the maturity of R1234yf and the like became obvious in the product development process. In the meantime more successful experiences with CO2 in niche markets and further research could be made. Even though a new alternative might be pulled out of the hat Daimler and VW would be much more careful in their judgment and they have learnt that judgment takes time. As there is not enough time due to legal regulation, it is very likely that CO2 will be the next generation of refrigerants.
R744.com: In your opinion is CO2 MAC more suited to a particular type and size of vehicle? Could the Daimler/VW announcement result a split in the automotive market between those who invest in CO2 MAC and those who invest in HFO MAC? What impact would such a split have?
Kaco: We do not see any reason why a CO2 MAC should not fit to any size or type of cars. 
Yes it could split the world into CO2 and NON-CO2 users. Consequences: The volumes for both technologies will be smaller. Anyway Daimler and VW have reasonable volumes to keep a CO2 system in an economic scale. Difficulties may appear in the service of the cars, especially in regions where you do not have "brand related" dealers. 
Finally the sad truth is: if people are injured or die because of R1234yf, finally then everybody will use CO2.
Wieland-Werke: Looks like a split at the moment.
SINTEF: The customers should decide. In the future fuel consumption will also be an issue to focus on.

Konvekta: In general, CO2-based MAC-technology is scalable for any type and size of vehicle. However, we will see innovative and reluctant companies and societies. Therefore, we expect a split of streams. According to our knowledge the economies of scale of Daimler and VW alone would already economically justify the shift to CO2. The positive environmental effect would be enormous.


KACO is a reliable partner of automotive OEMs and Tier 1 suppliers in the field of complex dynamic seal systems, including face seals, shaft seals, hydraulic and pneumatic seals for automotive applications. The Germany-based manufacturer KACO Dichtungstechnik GmbH is part of the Sabó group employing more than 4000 staff worldwide. 
The Wieland Group is a leading manufacturer of semi-finished and special products, providing the link between raw material and finished product. Its Tube Division offers products for domestic and industrial applications.
SINTEF is the largest independent research organisation in Scandinavia. Its Energy Research department offers solutions and services for CO2 Technology in refrigeration, mobile air conditioning, and heat pump systems.
Prof. Dr. Jürgen Köhler, Director of the Institute for Thermodynamics (IfT / University of Braunschweig has been working in the area of alternative refrigerants for more than 20 years. He began his work on CO2 at Konvekta in the 1990s, which he continued after his move to the IfT. He was one of the winners of the German Environmental Award 2007. 

Konvekta has been a successful and innovative manufacturer of thermo systems for commercial vehicles for over 50 years. It is a reliable partner for the commercial vehicle and rail industry in the field of air conditioning, refrigeration, and heating technology.


By Janaina Topley Lira

Mar 20, 2013, 12:44

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