* Daimler seeks six-month grace period
* Enforcement deadline was postponed from 2011 to 2013
* Previous industry standard 1,000 times more potent than
By Francesco Guarascio and Barbara Lewis
BRUSSELS, Jan 15 The European Commission will
seek to prosecute nations that flout a new EU law requiring use
of an environmentally friendly coolant in vehicle
air-conditioning, which Daimler AG says is dangerous.
From the start of January, EU law has demanded the phase-in
of a refrigerant with a relatively low level of greenhouse
gases, instead of a previous industry standard that has
planet-warming power more than one thousand times that of carbon
EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani said in response to
a parliamentary question that he would start infringement
procedures against member states that broke the new rules, Chris
Davies, the British Liberal Democrat Member of the European
Parliament who lodged the question, said in a statement.
The Commission, meanwhile, is analysing a request by the
German authorities to find a special solution for Daimler, which
wants a six-month grace period.
"The Germans have proposed a number of measures to meet the
new requirements of the directive, including penalties for car
makers that do not abide by the directive on air conditioning
for cars," a Commission official told Reuters.
The official, who asked not to be named, said the offer of
financial compensation was "a positive step", but added: "The
Commission remains firmly opposed to a new moratorium."
The law has already been delayed. It had been scheduled to
take effect on Jan. 1, 2011, but car manufacturers were given
until the end of 2012 to make sure they had a supply of the
right coolant for the new generation of cars after Jan. 1, 2013.
A Daimler test last year involving a simulated leak resulted
in the coolant bursting into flames, triggering bitter exchanges
between the German luxury automaker and Honeywell International
Inc., which developed the new coolant in partnership
with Dupont and says it is safe.
The new coolant has a greenhouse gas potency only four times
greater than CO2 and therefore complies with the EU law
requiring a greenhouse gas potential of no more than 150 times
that of CO2.
Terrence Hahn, vice-president and general manager for
Honeywell Fluorine Products, said that it would be a bad
precedent if the Commission did not stand by its law after a
long period of international testing to come up with viable and
safe alternative. Daimler was the only car manufacturer to
question it, he said.
"It would create a very difficult and awkward precedent
across the entire EU region," Hahn told Reuters. "This is very
foundational from a precedent-setting standpoint."
Honeywell has said that its new coolant is flammable, but
makes the point that brake fluid, steering fluid and fuel are
all capable of catching fire.
It is supplying its product across the globe and Hahn said
that the take-up rate was high in the United States, where the
regulatory environment allows manufacturers to earn credits to
cover tail-pipe fumes if they use coolants with lower emissions.
Hahn said that carbon dioxide, which can be a coolant rather
than a planet-warmer when used in refrigeration, had been
considered as a solution, but it did not work well in hot
It also involved piping and other equipment that would make
vehicles heavier, thereby increasing fuel burn and offsetting
any cut in emissions via cleaner air-conditioning, he said.
Daimler confirmed that it has asked for a six-month grace
period to come up with an alternative solution.
"So far we haven't received a reply," a spokesman said.