CO2 for use in A/Cs

April 22, 2013

In attempts to be the most environmentally sustainable automaker in the world by 2018, the Volkswagen group earlier announced that it was taking a newer approach to more eco-friendly air conditioning systems. At the Geneva motor show, the company said that it was planning to introduce CO2 into its air conditioning systems as a refrigerant.

Low Global Warming Potential

CO2 (carbon dioxide) was chosen as the refrigerant for its MAC systems (Mobile Air Conditioning) and would be incorporated in its entire fleet of vehicles through phases. The company said it would invest a lot of capital since it is geared towards manufacturing vehicles that are truly eco-friendly. Until recently, the most common refrigerant used in A/C systems was Tetrafluoroethane (R-134a) until it was declared hazardous and damaging to the environment by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). In fact, use of the cooling agent has begun fading out. CO2 is preferred because it has a low global warming potential (GWP) of a figure of one, compared to 1300, which is the GWP of R-134a. This generally means that it does not devastatingly affect the ozone layer. Tetrafluoroethane contains CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons) that have poked worrying holes on the ozone layer over the decades.

R744 vs.R1234yf

Earlier R1234yf, a coolant, had also been put under review for use in the A/C systems. However, after investigations in 2009, it was found to be flammable and there would have to be serious technological advancements done on the car before the coolant could be used. R744 refers to CO2 and for the mean time seems to be the preferred choice. However, to incorporate the refrigerant, car manufacture cost issues, as well durability of the MAC systems, would have to be looked into carefully. This is because use of CO2 would require that extremely high-quality hoses operating under very high pressure be introduced to the systems. In addition, a CO2 leak could prove very dangerous since it can significantly displace the amount of oxygen in the car, raising concerns about how safe it is to use it. Another refrigerant that is under consideration is the R-152a with a higher GWP of 124, but is advantageous since it does not require complex technology to ignite and thus would be much cheaper to implement in the A/Cs.

Volkswagen is committed to attaining their goal of being the most environmentally conscious automaker. So far, it has decided to put aside about two-thirds of the company’s capital, which will be used in the design and implementation of climate-friendly technologies.



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