DuPont refrigerant expert receives U.S. EPA Climate Protection Award for role in creating a program to reduce auto air conditioning climate emissions

Martin Drigotas, DuPont Automotive Refrigerants manager, was recently awarded the U.S. EPA Climate Protection Award for his role as a founder of the Improved Mobile Air Conditioning Cooperative Research Program (IMAC).

Launched in April 2004, the IMAC research program is an ambitious collaborative effort to deliver dramatic increases in the energy efficiency and substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from the operation of motor vehicle air conditioning (A/C) systems.

The partnership goal is to reduce fuel consumption from the operation of vehicle A/C by at least 30 percent and refrigerant emissions by 50 percent. Air conditioning in vehicles has direct emissions of hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants that are greenhouse gases and indirect tailpipe emissions from the additional fuel that is burned to power the cooling.

All vehicles currently use a refrigerant called HFC-134a, which is included in the gases scheduled for control under the Kyoto Protocol. European manufacturers and governments support new regulations that will phase out HFC-134a for vehicles after about 2012, but it is not yet clear whether replacement technology will better protect the climate. This project will improve the existing HFC-134a technology, raising the bar that competing technology will need to clear in order to capture markets in North America, Asia, and elsewhere.

Over 55 global partners from industry, universities, government research laboratories, environmental advocacy groups and regulatory agencies are participating in the IMAC program.

Founding members of IMAC include: Drigotas; Dr. Stephen O. Anderson, project director for the U.S. EPA; Ward Atkinson of Sun Test Engineering; William Hill, General Motors A/C Integration Engineer; and Elvis Hoffpauir, president and chief operating officer of the Mobile Air Conditioning Society. Drigotas, 57, is a 36-year veteran of DuPont.

"This improved air conditioning technology can be applied in the next decade to over 300 million vehicles worldwide while industry develops even better revolutionary technology for next-generation hybrids and fuel cell vehicles," said Dr. Stephen O. Andersen, project director for the U.S. EPA. "The global vehicle industry and their customers will save $4 to $5 billion if we can immediately improve HFC-134a systems to reliably reduce refrigerant emissions and use significantly less energy than the proposed alternative systems."

According to the U.S. EPA, the combination of fuel savings and reduced refrigerant emissions would save over 35 billion kilograms (77 billion pounds) of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions annually. This improved system could save the consumer over $420 in auto repair costs over the life of the vehicle.

This article originally appeared in the 05/01/2005 issue of Environmental Protection.

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