MAC Directive: EU launches legal action against Germany

By Alexandra Maratou, Jan 23, 2014, 15:56 3 minute reading

In a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on 23 January 2014, the European Commission announced the launch of legal proceedings against Germany over non-compliance with the Mobile Air Conditioning (MAC) Directive and the continued use of banned refrigerant R134a in MAC systems of certain new types of vehicles. Warnings were also issued for the UK, Belgium and Luxembourg.

"We are opening a procedure against Germany. This is not a final decision by the Commission," European Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani told reporters.

Following the placing on the EU market by German car manufacturer Daimler of vehicles equipped with R134a MAC that are not in conformity with the MAC Directive, the European Commission has requested German authorities to fully apply the Directive. The Commission considers that the requests for extensions of old vehicle approvals to new models, which the German authorities granted, were aimed at circumventing the MAC Directive.

Germany now has two months to respond to a letter of formal notice sent by the Commission.

Warning letters also sent to UK, Belgium and Luxembourg

Moreover, on 23 January 2014 the European Commission sent investigative letters (so called ‘Pilot letters’) to the authorities of three additional EU Member States, namely the United Kingdom, Belgium and Luxembourg who have informed the Commission of similar practices - extensions of old vehicle type approvals to new models. The countries are asked to clarify this situation within about 10 weeks. If the situation is not cleared up the Commission might start an infringement procedure against these Member States as well.

Daimler: the interim use of R134a was legal and allows transition to CO2

From Daimler’s perspective, the continued use of R134a refrigerant in 3 of its new models was legal: "In order to use the transition period for the development of CO2 air conditioning systems by end 2016, we applied for approval to extend current type certificates. This was evaluated and approved by the (German) authorities," Daimler said in a statement.

Earlier this month (13 January 2014), Germany's automotive association VDA urged the European Commission to allow both HFC1234yf and CO2 for use in passenger cars: "We think two ways should be possible - on the one hand the refrigerant Honeywell is presenting and on the other the CO2-related one," VDA president, Matthias Wissmann, told the news website just-auto in Detroit, at the opening of the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS).

EU continues with 1234yf safety assessment

"Daimler says there is a safety problem with the new coolant, but we do not see that," Tajani said during the press conference announcing the launch of infringement proceedings.

However, EU investigation over the safety of HFC1234yf is still ongoing: the Joint Research Center (JRC), European Commission’s agency with scientific and technical expertise, is currently reviewing the safety aspects of the use of the refrigerant HFC1234yf in mobile air conditioning systems. In the review process, the JRC considers especially the reports by the German Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) and SAE International, but takes into account other technical and scientific reports and tests undertaken by car manufacturers and different institutes. In the preliminary analysis, the JRC indicates that there exist technical solutions to mitigate the hazards of HFC1234yf.

Next steps

Germany has two months to respond, in which period the EU assessment of HFC1234yf’s safety is expected to be completed.

A third (and the last) JRC meeting of the working group on the safety of HFC1234yf will be held on 24 January 2014 in Ispra, Italy and a final report is expected soon after.

The European Commission considers that the current situation in the enforcement of the MAC Directive underlines the need for revisiting the EU Framework Directive for the type approval of motor vehicles, and a proposal in that direction is planned in 2014. 


By Alexandra Maratou

Jan 23, 2014, 15:56

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