Is the clock counting down on R134a?

Promoted content: National Refrigerants

R134a (GWP 1,430) has been used as the coolant of choice in our car air-conditioning systems for almost 30 years but that could all be coming to an end sooner than you may think. 

Today there are over 33 million cars licenced on UK roads and of that 33 million approx. 60% (21M) were registered before 2017. In 2017 it became illegal to manufacture cars in Europe using a refrigerant in its air-conditioning system with a GWP (global warming potential) >150 so most now contain the refrigerant R1234yf (GWP 4).

Reducing quotas of R134a


We are more environmentally aware now than ever before and have been making great efforts to reduce our carbon footprint. To encourage the change to more environmentally friendly refrigerants, a new quota system was introduced in 2015 meaning anyone wanting to manufacture or import these F-Gases into Europe (inc. UK) have to have a legitimate registered quota. This quota system has planned reductions every 3 years throughout its 15-year phase down program.

This quota system is not a physical Kg based system but is a CO2 equivalent meaning the higher the refrigerants GWP – the more quota it consumes.  

As quota allocations are cut, refrigerants with higher GWP’s become less available and more expensive to the point where it is no longer economically viable to produce them.

At some point this will happen to R134a and with 21m cars registered in the UK before 2017 a significant proportion of these will still rely on R134a to run their air-conditioning systems. 

Proposal of F-Gas reductions

In less than 9 months there will be the next planned quota reduction taking the overall quota to just 31%.

This may only be a 14% cut of the original 100% but it is equivalent to almost 30% of 2023’s availability. 

To make matters more concerning the current F-Gas legislation in Europe is under review calling for the 14% cut to be increased to almost 24%. This equals a reduction of almost half of this year’s availably.  

When the UK left the European Union it adopted Europe’s current F-Gas legislation directly into UK policy.

It is currently unconfirmed at this time whether any changes to the E.U policy would be adopted into UK legislation.

One thing however is clear, by the end of 2023 there will be at least 30% less available quota from 2024 to 2027.

Eventually there won’t be any original R134a cars left on UK roads apart from a small number of classic cars. The question is, will the supply of R134a last long enough? 

National R456A is a new lower GWP (global warming potential) alternative to R134a in automotive aftermarket. National R456A is has almost the same capacity and efficiency vs R134a while having only half the GWP. With over a 30% quota reduction (vs 2023) from January 1st 2024 — R134a will have reduced availability and become much more expensive.

National R456A could be the solution to this problem. With a GWP of 626 vs 1,430 (R134a) manufacturers can make more than twice the amount of refrigerant using the same quota. Fully compatible with existing R134a systems and equipment with no seal replacement or oil change required.

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