Cold Hard Facts 2: 8% of Australian cars use HC refrigerants

By Ginta Vanaga, Jul 26, 2013, 12:00 6 minute reading

A study commissioned by the Australian Government reveals that approximately 8% of passenger and light commercial vehicles in Australia use hydrocarbon refrigerant in the air conditioning (AC) system. That’s approximately 1.2 million vehicles out of the total 14.6 million vehicle population.

“Many in the automotive industry may be shocked to discover that usage and market share is this high,” says John W Clark, Technical Advisor for HyChill. “Very few people understand these gases sufficiently and this has resulted in most believing the false and misleading information about hydrocarbons that’s been propagated by competing interests over the past 20 years.”

HC AC in Australia is not a DIY solution

It is important to know who is applying hydrocarbon refrigerant to motor vehicle air conditioners in Australia. Unfortunately the report does not discuss this, but Mr. Clark is able to shed light on the subject: “For the last 20 years or so the competition has been suggesting that hydrocarbons are mostly used by ‘backyard’ workshops and ‘do-it-yourself’ vehicle owners, […] but in Australia nothing could be further from the truth.”

“The overwhelming majority of HyChill automotive hydrocarbon refrigerant is used in vehicle workshops,” explains Clark, “We don’t target the product at vehicle owners and neither do most of our distributors. In the USA you will find ‘DIY’ hydrocarbon charging kits on the shelves of major retail chains, but not here... in Australia almost all automotive hydrocarbon refrigerant is sold through established professional automotive parts distribution outlets, often alongside HFC-134a.”

As shown on their website, HyChill’s distributor network in Australia is extensive. It includes some of the largest parts suppliers in Australia and covers all major population centres across the entire continent, with most centres having multiple distributors.

Burson Auto Parts for example has been supplying HyChill's refrigerant across Australia for over 15 years.
We now have over 100 outlets around Australia and HyChill's refrigerant has been an integral and very successful part of our product mix," states Andrew Schram, Burson's Auto Parts Chief Operating Officer.

20 years of safe use of HCs in vehicle AC

HyChill’s team includes people who have been working with hydrocarbon gases for more than 40 years possessing an enormous depth of hands-on experience and understanding of them. “That’s why we knew it was safe to use in car AC and why we persisted, against incredible pressure from the competition, for the past 20 years to prove it. To see this fact finally recognised by a truly independent authority is a huge milestone.”

“I don’t know how much evidence it will take to convince some people that hydrocarbons are safe to use in car AC,” continues Clark, “It would be reasonable to expect that 20 years and millions of vehicles would be sufficient to sway even the toughest critics.”

HyChill estimates the HC share could be bigger

HyChill’s own calculations indicate that hydrocarbons share of the vehicle AC market is more like 12% to 15%, but respects the need for the report to err on the conservative side. “We were on the verge of commissioning an independent firm to conduct a market share analysis because we felt the need to correct the false information propagated by some that hydrocarbon usage is small, insignificant and illegitimate. Thankfully, this excellent report by the Australian Government has beaten us to it.”

Role of major vehicle manufacturers in transition to HCs

The ultimate goal still eludes HyChill - that of securing the business of a major vehicle manufacturer. HyChill was the first hydrocarbon refrigerant supplier in the world to sign up a vehicle manufacturer, but they were a very small specialist manufacturer in Western Australia.
Our ultimate goal and passion is to secure a major carmaker,” says Clark. “The only thing holding a vehicle manufacturer back is fear founded on a belief that is not real”, says Clark, “Even if these facts from Australia aren’t enough, a manufacturer now has at their disposal numerous modern design techniques that would make the AC system many times safer than the systems designed for HFC-134a that are running on hydrocarbons right now.”

At some point,” asserts Clark, “an enterprising and forward-looking car manufacturer will accept the reality that hydrocarbons are already being used safely and embrace the transition. Then they and their customers will benefit from a cheaper, more efficient, higher reliability, less toxic and higher performance hydrocarbon-based car air-conditioning system. Our team has spent the last 20 years preparing a team of experts and intellectual property to assist car manufacturers to adapt their vehicle designs, production lines and infrastructure to use hydrocarbons.”

“We can provide solutions which retain backward-compatibility with HFC-134a and even HFC-1234yf,” notes Clark. “Of course the system will outperform when using hydrocarbons because it is a higher performance refrigerant but it will allow a manufacturer to supply all markets and all climates, including those markets that do not yet accept hydrocarbons or do not yet have the infrastructure in place support them, via a single AC system design. This would allow the OEM great flexibility to make a gradual transition to hydrocarbons on a market-by-market basis as each market becomes ready.”

HCs as means to comply with the EU MAC Directive

Hydrocarbons could enable car manufacturers in the European Union (EU) to comply with the MAC Directive (Directive 2006/40/EC), which requires mobile air-conditioners (MACs) of newly approved types of vehicles to use a refrigerant with GWP below 150 as of January 2011, a requirement that will become applicable to all new vehicles as of 2017.

"European policymakers and vehicle manufacturers would be wise to pay attention to this highly significant and authoritative Australian report", says Brent Hoare, Executive Director of the Green Cooling Association. "For the first time in nearly 10 years, something approaching the true extent of the use of hydrocarbon refrigerants in Australian vehicles over the past two decades has been officially recognised. Clearly the implication that needs to be drawn is that if hydrocarbons can be used in the automotive air conditioning service market to such an extent in Australia, it ought to be possible to introduce them in Europe. Further, if it is possible to use hydrocarbons in existing systems, the deep and rapid reductions in HFC emissions we need to achieve in new systems can certainly be made".
Surely it is not beyond the technical capacity of any European vehicle manufacturer to deliver a cost effective air-conditioning system using hydrocarbon refrigerants that is both safe and efficient?", adds Mr Hoare.

About Cold Hard Facts 2

The report “Cold Hard Facts 2: A study of the refrigeration and air conditioning industry in Australia” is commissioned by the Australian Government can be downloaded from the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website.


By Ginta Vanaga

Jul 26, 2013, 12:00

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