Several different refrigerants are used in automotive air-conditioning and it is critical that the correct one is used in your car by your specialist. Newer types are less environmentally damaging. The first gas, R12, which was used on cars up to 1993, had a global warming potential that was 8000 times higher than carbon dioxide and took around 100 years to degrade. R12 was banned for air-conditioning servicing in the UK from 2001. Its replacement, R134a, was far superior from an environmental standpoint, being only 1300 times more damaging than CO2 from a global warming perspective and could degrade in 13 years. Nonetheless, car manufacturers are no longer permitted to use R134a and its replacement, R1234yf, requires only 13 days to dissipate and is only four times as harmful as CO2.
The introduction of R1234yf in 2013 was controversial, especially when Mercedes-benz refused to use it in certain models on safety grounds, which saw the French government banning certain new Mercedes cars from being sold, prior to the decision being overturned in court. Being so new, its sole manufacturers, Honeywell/dupont, have been accused of holding a monopoly. Even so, R1234yf remains significantly more expensive than the older R134a gas, which is still available to the repair industry. However, the EU has restricted production of R134a on environmental grounds, with some pundits arguing that the calculated demand was underestimated. Due to this restricted production, the cost of R134a has risen significantly in the last year, so don’t be surprised if you find that professional regassing charges have increased accordingly.