* Commission has said will take action if law breached
* Honeywell says its product is safe, subject to extensive
By Barbara Lewis and Francesco Guarascio
BRUSSELS, March 13 Germany has written to the EU
executive with a new set of proposals aiming to break a deadlock
over law requiring carmakers to stop using extremely potent
greenhouse gases in air cooling systems, EU sources said.
The problem for Germany is that luxury car giant Daimler AG
says the new, less polluting fluid on the market is
dangerously flammable and is refusing to use it.
That has set it at odds not only with the European
Commission, but with U.S. firm Honeywell International Inc.
, which developed the coolant in partnership with Dupont
and says it is safe.
"Germany has just sent us a new letter with proposals on how
to comply with the directive. We are examining now this new
offer. We cannot impose fines on Daimler, but we need to have
the directive applied correctly in all member states," an EU
official said on condition of anonymity.
Following an earlier exchange of letters, the Commission
confirmed on Wednesday that it had received a letter dated March
5 from the German authorities and would "reply in due time".
While the Commission is relying on Germany to enforce EU law
and cannot directly fine carmakers, it has said it will start
infringement procedures against member states for breach of a
new law that forbids the use of any air conditioning fluids with
a global warming potential exceeding 150 times the impact of
The coolant produced by Honeywell named HFO-1234yf is only
four times more potent than CO2 and does meet the EU
requirement. It compares with the previous industry standard,
which has a planet-warming power more than 1,000 times that of
In a Daimler test of HFO-1234yf last year
involving a simulated leak, the new coolant burst into flames.
The Commission does not prescribe which coolant is used
provided that it meets the criteria, but the problem is that any
alternative Daimler can develop will take time.
"In principle, we have nothing against Daimler if it plans
to develop a new refrigerant. The industry has already decided
on a refrigerant, but if this is changed in respect of the new
rules, we have no problem," the Commission official said.
Germany's letter makes certain suggestions, which the
sources did not disclose. An EU diplomat, speaking on condition
of anonymity, said Germany had in addition asked the Commission
to grant more time to German authorities.
"We feel that the security concerns raised by some car
producers should be taken very seriously. Therefore, we feel
that it would not serve the desired purpose if we forced car
producers to use 1234yf (the new coolant)," the diplomat said.
Honeywell says its coolant is highly efficient and safe and
has been subject to comprehensive, independent testing.
"Daimler had six years to solve this issue. No other
carmarker has reported any safety issues," Paul Sanders, a
managing director at Honeywell, said in an interview.
"We continue to work with the Commission and member states
authorities to enable the full implementation of the directive
Officials at Daimler could not immediately be reached for