Honeywell plans to invest about $300 million to increase production capacity for HFO-1234yf, a low-global-warming refrigerant for cars, including building a commercial manufacturing plant in Louisiana for the air conditioning refrigerant.
HFO-1234yf has a global-warming potential (GWP) of less than 1. This GWP is 99.9 percent lower than that of HFC-134a, the current refrigerant in use, and even lower than that of CO2 (see chart).
Honeywell says it will construct a high-volume manufacturing plant for the climate-friendly automotive coolant at the company’s existing Geismar, La., refrigerants manufacturing site, which is expected to be fully operational in 2016. The exact size of the plant will depend on supply agreements that Honeywell is putting in place with major customers.
HFO-1234yf is being adopted by automakers in part to meet a European Union directive that requires that refrigerants in all new vehicle types sold in Europe after Jan. 1, 2013, have a GWP below 150. All cars sold in Europe after 2017 must meet the new GWP requirement of less than 150.
Automakers in the US are also adopting HFO-1234yf to help comply with Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and vehicle greenhouse gas standards. The CAFE standard raises the average fuel economy of cars and light-duty trucks to 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025.
The new refrigerant came under scrutiny after Daimler said it burst into flames in some head-on collision tests. A subsequent study — and automakers including General Motors, Ford and Toyota — concluded that HFO-1234yf is safe for use in cars.
Despite the studies, Mercedes automaker Daimler won’t use HFO-1234yf and continues to use the older refrigerant in its new Mercedes. France, citing greenhouse gas emissions concerns, has banned the latest models of Mercedes because they use HFC-134a.