At a high-level workshop organized by United Nations and Chinese authorities in Shanghai last week, shecco presented market trends and opportunities related to next generation Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) based on the natural refrigerant CO2.
The meeting on 24-25 November in Shanghai allowed Chinese experts in the field of vehicle air conditioning to exchange views and gain new insights into next-generation refrigerant options to replace currently used HFCs. Participants included experts from the Chinese automotive industry, high-level representatives from Chinese ministries, the UN, the European Commission, California, as well as system and component suppliers from around the world, research institutes and global car manufacturers.
Presentations and subsequent discussions focused on which technical, legal, and economic factors could influence the choice of next-generation refrigerant for vehicles by the Chinese car industry.
Of special interest for the Chinese industry are new system developments, including hybrids and fuel cells, the rate of refrigerant leakage, energy efficiency, investment costs for new technologies, and potential financial support under the frame of Clean Development Mechanisms (CDM) or other financing options.
shecco gave an update on general market trends for MAC worldwide. With air conditioning fast becoming a standard feature in vehicles, Chinese companies have access to attractive system and compressor markets. Furthermore, by developing systems suitable to the natural refrigerant CO2, Chinese industry has the option to benefit from emission credits under the frame of the Kyoto Protocol, as this would lead to significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions over a life-cycle approach. shecco highlighted discussions about next refrigerant choice, narrowed down to CO2 and the new chemical 1234yf as possible alternatives. shecco presented a video showing flammability test results for 1234yf, which was broadcasted on German TV last month, highlighting its risks of ignition and its highly toxic decomposition products as a result.
Stakeholders and next steps
Organisations presenting latest technology updated included suppliers, such as Denso, Egelhof, Shrieve and Obrist Engieering, Research Institutes Sintef and Purdue University and the NGO Greenpeace. From the policy side, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), California Air Resources Board (CARB), the European Commission and The Chinese Ministry of Environmental Protection gave an overview of legal initiatives to have an impact on the market. Representatives from Chinese authorities and car industry completed the expert panel.
As a conclusion to the workshop, UNEP announced that funding will be made available to allow both China and India evaluate different technical options to show in practice would be the best solution according to their climatic conditions. Extensive vehicle testing and research efforts are thus expected for the next 2 years.
So far, R134a is the refrigerant of choice in China, after all CFC production plants were closed down in June 2007. Currently, there are 11 manufacturers of MAC in China, with investments in the order of €300-500 million. Given that the EU will ban R134a form new vehicle models as from 2011, Chinese suppliers exporting to Europe will have to adapt to new refrigerant requirements. Use of alternative refrigerants could also be required in China at a later stage.