Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development

Mobile Air Conditioning, Lowest Cost Alternative Refrigerant Identified

08 March 2019 — Implemented in a new design called Secondary Loop Mobile Air Conditioning (SL-MAC), the lowest cost alternative refrigerant to HFC-134a has been identified as R-152a (hydrofluorocarbon – HFC-152a). This improved refrigerant is more energy efficient and requires less routine maintenance, saving owners hundreds of dollars over the life of the vehicle, according to a new report published by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) in partnership with the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. 

Authored by Kate Blumberg and Aaron Isenstadt from ICCT and Kristen N. Taddonio, Stephen O. Andersen, and Nancy J. Sherman from IGSD, Mobile Air Conditioning: The Life-Cycle Costs and Greenhouse-Gas Benefits of Switching to Alternative Refrigerants and Improving System Efficiencies, examines the greenhouse-gas benefits and costs of switching to improved refrigerants and more efficient air conditioning (AC) systems.

“This analysis is timely because the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was amended in 2016 to require the phase down of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) emissions by both developed and developing countries,” said co-author Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, Director of Research at IGSD. “Next-generation mobile AC technology can eliminate about one third of global HFC emissions, avoiding up to 0.2°C of warming over the next century if the new MACs are designed for maximum energy efficiency and vehicles are insulated to reduce cooling demand,” he added. 

R-152a is a mildly flammable refrigerant  that satisfies the European Union F-Gas Regulation requiring global warming potential less than 150 and is listed as approved for use in mobile ACs by the United States Environmental Protection Agency Significant New Alternatives Policy Program (SNAP) when used according to SAE International manufacturing and safety standards.  It is also approved under the European Union Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) and, unlike existing mobile AC refrigerants HFC-134a and HFO-1234yf, HFC-152a has no hazardous trifluoroacetic acid atmospheric byproducts. 

“Most remarkably, R-152a in SL-MACs has been developed almost patent free by a team of experts from TATA Motors Limited, MAHLE, and IGSD, with the strong support of several dozen experts from the automotive community including SAE International, the Mobil Air Conditioning Society International, car makers, and MAC system component, system and service suppliers” added co-author Dr. Nancy J. Sherman, Director of Technical Assessment at IGSD.

“Where else but the HFC phase down do you see industry working proactively with environmentalists?” said co-author Kristen N. Taddonio, Senior Climate and Energy Advisor to IGSD.

Mobile Air Conditioning: The Life-Cycle Costs and Greenhouse-Gas Benefits of Switching to Alternative Refrigerants and Improving System Efficienciesis available for download here.