Car refrigerant rejected by Daimler is safe, EU scientists say

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) -- EU scientists have found that the new car refrigerant at the center of a dispute that has pitched regulators against Germany and its premium carmaker Daimler does not pose any serious safety risks, the European Commission said in a statement.

The Commission, the EU executive, has launched legal proceedings against Germany over Daimler's refusal to stop using an old-style refrigerant, R134a, which has a global warming potential more than 1,000 times greater than that of carbon dioxide.

The suggested substitute, which has roughly the same impact as carbon dioxide, is R1234yf, developed by U.S. conglomerate Honeywell in partnership with Dupont.

Daimler says that the substitute can emit a toxic gas when it burns, but its refusal to use the product has placed it in breach of an EU law that requires new cars to use refrigerants with a global warming potential no more than 150 times that of carbon dioxide.

In what it described as "a confidence-building measure," the Commission asked the Joint Research Council (JRC), set up to provide impartial scientific advice for policymakers, to carry out a new assessment of R1234yf.

"There is no evidence of a serious risk in the use of this refrigerant in mobile air-conditioning systems under normal and foreseeable conditions of use," the JRC concluded in its report published on Friday.

Daimler issued a statement saying that the research was "too restrictive." The carmaker said that its preferred option is to develop air-conditioning systems that use carbon dioxide as a refrigerant. Development of such a system, however, could take years.

Honeywell and Dupont both welcomed the JRC's findings. Honeywell said there are now more than 500,000 cars using R1234yf and the number is expected to reach more than two million by the end of this year.

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