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Brussels, 23 January 2014
Refrigerants used in mobile air condition systems (MAC) - State of play
Since 1 January 2011, air conditioning systems of new types of vehicles must be filled with a refrigerant with a low impact on the climate (in line with the EU's "MAC" Directive 2006/40/EC on mobile air conditioning). Fluorinated greenhouse gases with a global warming potential (GWP) higher than 150 CO2 GWP can no longer be used in mobile air climate (MAC) systems. Car manufacturers are free to choose a refrigerant/system as long as it fulfils the obligation of the directive. In 2009, the car manufacturers chose the new refrigerant HFO 1234yf to fulfil this requirement due to its low GWP. The currently used Refrigerant R134a, with a GWP of 1300, is de facto banned in newly type-approved vehicles (new models) since 1 January 2011. From 1 January 2017, this ban will be extended to all new vehicles.
In 2011 the Commission was informed of an important problem of supply of the refrigerant HFO 1234yf, chosen by the industry. Therefore, in light of the exceptional circumstances concerning problems encountered by industry in supplying this gas in 2011 and exclusively with respect to this aspect, the Commission accepted to refrain from launching infringement procedures in cases where vehicle production would continue to be done with the gas R134a until 31 December 2012.
Since 1 January 2013 the MAC Directive is fully applicable. This means that all motor vehicles to be registered and marketed in the EU have to conform to the new legislation as stipulated by Framework Directive 2007/46/EC.
In September 2012, one manufacturer (Daimler) raised concerns about the safety of the use of HFO 1234yf and declared that it would continue to use R134a.
In December 2012 the German authorities indicated to the Commission that tests were being carried out on specific models to verify the safety of the gas and requested the Commission to consider "the possible extension of the right to use refrigerant R134a" "for a further six months" in the vehicles that were considered unsafe by one manufacturer. This issue was debated with the other Member States at the Technical Committee on Motor Vehicles.
In response to a request from the European Commission of February 2013, Member States informed the Commission about the situation of their respective markets. In this context reference was made to one manufacturer whose vehicles were non-compliant with the MAC Directive. The relevant authorities also stated in their correspondence that they were analysing the way forward to ensure compliance. German authorities called on that particular vehicle manufacturer to re-establish conformity as soon as possible.
Given this situation, on 18 March Vice-President Tajani wrote to the German Ministers for the Economy and for Transport to state that "the current situation of non-compliance by some manufacturers is endangering the proper functioning and consistency of the internal market (and) is also leading to unfair competition in the internal market". The Vice-President also participated in a meeting of the responsible Committee of the European Parliament (the ENVI committee, held on 20 March), where he confirmed that the European Commission was expecting a clarification from the German authorities. Therefore, also in March, the Commission services requested the German authorities to provide detailed information about the above mentioned measures that the authorities intend to put in place to ensure compliance with the MAC Directive.
On 23 May, the Commission received a letter from the German Federal Motor Transport Authority (KBA), informing that it had accepted Daimler's request to extend a previous type-approval to the vehicles covered by the MAC problem.
Therefore, in the European market there are vehicles produced, by one manufacturer, that are not in conformity with their type-approval, meaning that they cannot be sold or registered in the EU. There are also vehicles produced under an extension of a previous type approval whose legal status needs to be further investigated.
Given this situation, the Commission launched an investigation on 10 June with the German authorities, requesting specific information on this situation. On 31 October 2013 the Commission closed the EU Pilot procedure1 with Germany, having refused the explanations Germany provided in August.
Since the launching of this investigation it was clear that, if it revealed non-compliance with the requirements of the MAC Directive, the Commission, in its role as Guardian of the Treaty, would take the necessary action, including where appropriate infringement procedures.
Member States are responsible for the implementation of EU law within their legal systems. The Commission is responsible for ensuring that EU law is correctly applied.
The Commission is acting to ensure the enforcement of the MAC Directive by Germany, by requesting that the German authorities fully apply this Directive to vehicles produced by one German manufacturer. The reasons for this decision are as follows:
The Commission remains committed to ensuring that the climate objectives of the Directive are fulfilled and that the law is uniformly applied throughout the EU's internal market, so that fair competitive conditions are ensured for all economic operators.
Under EU infringement procedures, Germany has two months to respond to the letter of formal notice written by the Commission concerning this issue.
Furthermore, on the same day, 23 January, the Commission sent a Pilot letter to the authorities of three Member States that have informed the Commission of similar practices (extension of old vehicle approvals) by their respective type-approval authorities, requesting more information on the situation. These countries are: United Kingdom, Belgium and Luxembourg.
EU Pilot is used as a general rule before the first step of an infringement procedure under Article 258 TFEU is taken by the Commission. Under the pilot procedure the Member State concerned has approximately 10 weeks to reply to the Commission.