Styles, B., Santrock, J., Vincent, C., Leffert, M. et al., "A Critical Assessment of Factors Affecting the Flammability of R-1234yf in a Frontal Collision," SAE Int. J. Trans. Safety 2(1):20-45, 2014, doi:10.4271/2014-01-0419.
An evaluation methodology has been developed for assessing the suitability of R-1234yf in vehicles. This relates primarily to evaluating the flammability of R-1234yf in the engine compartment during a frontal collision. This paper will discuss the process followed in the methodology, the technical rationale for this process, and the results of the analysis.The specific types of analysis included in the methodology are: exhaust-system thermal characterization, computer simulated crash tests, actual crash tests, teardown and examination of crashed parts, and releases of refrigerant onto hot exhaust manifolds. Each type of analysis was logically ordered and combined to produce a comprehensive evaluation methodology.This methodology has been applied and demonstrates that R-1234yf is difficult to ignite when factors that occur in frontal crashes are simultaneously considered. Factors considered in this analysis include: crush and deformation of the vehicle structure, airflow in the engine compartment, exhaust system temperatures during different driving scenarios, and coolant release due to damage of the engine coolant system. Such findings support the conclusion of the Society of Automotive Engineers Cooperative Research Team (SAE CRP1234-4) regarding R-1234yf usage: “risks are still very small compared to the risks of a vehicle fire from all causes and well below risks that are commonly viewed as acceptable by the general public.”This methodology can provide a representative and more realistic assessment of the suitability of R-1234yf in automotive air-conditioning systems. The evaluation methodology can be applied to any vehicle.