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European carmakers pursue natural vehicle coolants

The news out of the European car market these days is not always about luxury cars and car shows. One result of a recent automotive manufacturing gathering was the announcement of progress on naturally cooled vehicles.

Specifically, a handful of companies showed off vehicles that sported air conditioners powered by carbon dioxide, rather than the greenhouse gas HFC-134a, which is the current industry standard. The development is in response not only to what many believe is a global warming crisis but also to a recent EU statute banning the use of HFC-134a in vehicles. That ban goes into effect on January 1, 2011; but carmakers aren’t waiting until the last minute.

The vehicles were shown at the Mobile Air Conditioner Summit, which took place in Saalfelden, Austria, during the weekend. Among the suppliers doing the talking were Obrist, Valeo, and Visteon—some of the best-known names in the business.

Also on hand were officials from American interests, including the California Air Resources Board, which is also considering such a ban.

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