New Technology Helps Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions From Car, Truck Air Conditioning Systems

Automotive air conditioners have a significant impact on the Earth's climate. Refrigerants used in vehicle air conditioners (also called "mobile air conditioners"), are powerful greenhouse gases. In the United States alone, vehicle air conditioners consume 7 billion gallons of gasoline every year.

EPA's Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership helped developed advances to cool the effects of air conditioners on the climate, the agency announced on Feb. 1. The automotive industry has developed new technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions from car and truck air conditioning systems. Now electronic leak detectors and new recycling machines will help reduce emissions during automotive air conditioner repairs.

"EPA and its mobile air conditioning partners are driving toward cleaner air, a healthier economy, and a more secure energy future," said Bill Wehrum, acting assistant administrator for EPA's Office of Air and Radiation. "Car owners can make a difference by insisting on professional service of automobile air conditioners using the best available equipment."

These technologies, which are now commercially available, are technically and environmentally superior, officials said. New leak detector technology will help service professionals to identify and repair very small leaks in vehicle air conditioning systems. With current diagnostic technology, most refrigerant escapes into the atmosphere before leaks are detected.

New recycling machines can recover a higher amount of refrigerants from air conditioner systems, which will minimize the amount of refrigerant that leaks into the atmosphere during system repair. The equipment precisely recharges the air conditioning system after it is repaired. A precise recharge is important because it helps avoids system failure due to overcharge, increases cooling capacity and improves energy efficiency. The new technologies will help reduce emissions by 1 million metric tons of carbon equivalent from current levels, the equivalent of the annual emissions from more than 650,000 cars.

This equipment is now commercially available and is expected to be in widespread use in repair shops within several years. Leak-tight replacement parts and improved service procedures are currently under development and will further reduce refrigerant emissions in the future.

EPA's Mobile Air Conditioning Climate Protection Partnership is a team of 100 corporate, government, and environmental organizations working together to rapidly improve the energy efficiency of vehicle air conditioning system by at least 30 percent and reduce refrigerant emissions by at least 50 percent.

For more information about the partnership, go to http://www.epa.gov/cppd/mac.

This article originally appeared in the 02/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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