General Motors Co. will introduce HFO-1234yf air-conditioning refrigerant in 2013 Chevrolet, Buick, GMC and Cadillac models in the US. This could be the first passenger vehicle application of the new refrigerant in the US, which has 99.7% lower global warming potential (GWP) than the current refrigerant. (Earlier post.)

HFO-1234yf, supplied by Honeywell, breaks down faster in the atmosphere than the refrigerant currently used (R-134a). On average, R-134a refrigerant has an atmospheric life of more than 13 years, giving it a global warming potential (GWP) of more than 1,400. By comparison, the new refrigerant lingers in the atmosphere for 11 days and has a GWP of only 4.

The US Environmental Protection Agency awards regulatory credit for the improved environmental performance of the new refrigerant, which helps GM meet the overall requirements of the EPA’s new motor vehicle greenhouse gas regulations. The new regulation requires an overall 40% improvement in overall US fleet average vehicle fuel economy by 2016.

GM says that the use of HFO-1234yf will help GM vehicles significantly exceed their targets under the new regulations.

A two-year Cooperative Research Program conducted through SAE International to investigate the safety and environmental performance of HFO-1234yf for mobile air conditioning (MAC) systems concluded in 2009 that HFO-1234yf can be used as the global replacement refrigerant in future mobile air conditioning systems and it can be safely accommodated through established industry standards and practices for vehicle design, engineering, manufacturing, and service. The report was the third SAE report to evaluate the new refrigerant. (Earlier post.)