Regulators from the European Commission, the US EPA Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership, and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) announced their intention to harmonize Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) testing and engineering standards to minimize leakages of fluorinated gases used in automobile air conditioning systems.
Fluorinated gases are extremely powerful and long-lived greenhouse gases used in refrigeration, air conditioning, fire-fighting, electrical transmission systems and various industry processes. Reducing their emissions is a requirement under the Kyoto Protocol.
The regulators further agreed to work cooperatively to remove all barriers worldwide to the refrigerants allowed by the European Union MAC Directive.
The MAC Directive targets the reduction of fluorinated greenhouse gases: hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6). Although these gases currently account for just 2% of total EU greenhouse gas emissions, their warming impact on the atmosphere—their “global warming potential” is high and many of them have long atmospheric lifetimes.
For example, sulphur hexafluoride has a global warming potential 23,900 times that of carbon dioxide (CO2), the most common greenhouse gas. Were no measures to be taken, the Commission estimates that emissions of fluorinated gases would be 50% above 1995 levels in 2010. The MAC Directive targets a reduction of more than 20% from 1995 levels by 2012 and by even more subsequently.
The Directive will phase out HFC 134a, the refrigerant currently used in car air conditioning system, from 1 January 2011 onward for new vehicle models and from 1 January 2017 for all new vehicles. In addition, vehicle air conditioners should not leak more than 40 grams of HFC-134a per year. If the vehicle has two evaporators, as can be the case in some minivans for instance, the maximum leakage rate should not be higher that 60 grams per year.
One immediate goal of this European-US collaboration is to amend the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) refrigerant containment standard to satisfy EU requirements that prescribe maximum refrigerant leakage rates for mobile air conditioners in cars sold in Europe after 2008.
This involves correlating the numerical score of the current SAE J-2727 standard with estimates of emissions (grams/year) based on a new SAE standard (J-2763) test procedure for determining HFC134a leakage rates for mobile air conditioning systems using a mini-shed test. The California Air Resources Board will accept SAE-2727 certification when calculating credits for emissions reductions under its pending climate protection laws and it is anticipated that SAE-2727 will be adopted by regulatory authorities worldwide.
The SAE standard is the next step in achieving the goal of the Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership to reduce the emissions of refrigerants by at least 50% and to improve the energy efficiency by at least 30%. It is proof that we are well on our way to meeting those ambitious goals.—Stephen O. Andersen, U.S. EPA Climate Protection Partnerships Division
The agreement came during the 2006 Mobile Air Conditioning Summit in Saalfelden, Austria.
European Climate Change Programme (ECCP): Regulating fluorinated gases in the EU