Future Emissions and Atmospheric Fate of HFC-1234yf from Mobile Air Conditioners in Europe

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Environmental Science & Technology, Volume 46, Issue 3, p.1650 - 1658 (2012)






HFC-1234yf (2,3,3,3-tetrafluoropropene) is under discussion for replacing HFC-134a (1,1,1,2-tetrafluoroethane) as a cooling agent in mobile air conditioners (MACs) in the European vehicle fleet. Some HFC-1234yf will be released into the atmosphere, where it is almost completely transformed to the persistent trifluoroacetic acid (TFA). Future emissions of HFC-1234yf after a complete conversion of the European vehicle fleet were assessed. Taking current day leakage rates and predicted vehicle numbers for the year 2020 into account, European total HFC-1234yf emissions from MACs were predicted to range between 11.0 and 19.2 Gg yr(-1). Resulting TFA deposition rates and rainwater concentrations over Europe were assessed with two Lagrangian chemistry transport models. Mean European summer-time TFA mixing ratios of about 0.15 ppt (high emission scenario) will surpass previously measured levels in background air in Germany and Switzerland by more than a factor of 10. Mean deposition rates (wet + dry) of TFA were estimated to be 0.65-0.76 kg km(-2) yr(-1), with a maxium of ∼2.0 kg km(-2) yr(-1) occurring in Northern Italy. About 30-40% of the European HFC-1234yf emissions were deposited as TFA within Europe, while the remaining fraction was exported toward the Atlantic Ocean, Central Asia, Northern, and Tropical Africa. Largest annual mean TFA concentrations in rainwater were simulated over the Mediterranean and Northern Africa, reaching up to 2500 ng L(-1), while maxima over the continent of about 2000 ng L(-1) occurred in the Czech Republic and Southern Germany. These highest annual mean concentrations are at least 60 times lower than previously determined to be a safe level for the most sensitive aquatic life-forms. Rainwater concentrations during individual rain events would still be 1 order of magnitude lower than the no effect level. To verify these results future occasional sampling of TFA in the atmospheric environment should be considered. If future HFC-1234yf emissions surpass amounts used here studies of TFA accumulation in endorheic basins and other sensitive areas should be aspired.