Recently, engineers at Mercedes-Benz were shocked when a new refrigerant being tested ignited into a ball of fire before their very eyes.
That refrigerant, HFO-1234yf, is a new product from Honeywell and Dupont and is the only refrigerant of its kind that meets the EU’s new climate guidelines. But after simulating a leak in the air conditioning system of a Mercedes-Benz B-Class, engineers at the German automaker were left speechless when the substance caught fire as soon as it hit the surfaceof the turbocharged 1.6-liter engine.
Even more concerning is that the refrigerant released a toxic, corrosive gas as it burned that could be lethal to a human being. In fact, the windshield on the B-Class turned milky white as the hydrogen fluoride ate its way into the glass. The result of the test has sent the industry into a whirlwind, wondering if years of testing has actually been flawed and if plans to introduce the refrigerant have to change.
Preliminary results released by SAE International however have said that the coolant is safe to use and the auto engineers group is expected to release a complete risk assessment in February regarding the issue, publishing its findings by the end of the second quarter next year. In total, 13 automakers were involved with the testing and other than Daimler, no other automakers have data that would leave the SAE International to believe that the substance isn’t safe.
Mercedes-Benz, however, has no plans of using the substance.
“To date, the majority of the (automakers) involved in the new (research) do not believe that any of the new information reviewed will lead to a change in the overall risk assessment,” the SAE International said.
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