On 15 April, the European Commission (EC) provided clarification to Member States as regards a misinterpretation of the MAC Directive by some European OEMs. The EC has confirmed that it won't be possible after 2011 to use F-gas R134a in any new type of vehicle even if the MAC system was type-approved before 2011. Update: the issue gained wide coverage as it was covered by Reuters in its article "EU closes climate loophole for car air conditioners".

Under the EU MAC Directive 2006/40/EC and within the spirit of the Kyoto Protocol, Member States must phase out the F-gas R134a as of 2011 in MACs in new types of vehicles. Some OEMs, however, have halted any research and investment as they re-interpreted this Directive. The EC has now provided all EU Member States with a clarification so as to comply with the MAC Directive 2006/40/EC as soon as 1 January 2011.

The MAC directive takes precedence on all implementing legislation

As provided by article 5 (4) of Directive 2006/40/EC: "With effect from 1 January 2011 Member States shall no longer grant EC type-approval or national type- approval for a type of vehicle fitted with an air conditioning system designed to contain fluorinated greenhouse gases with a global warming potential higher than 150".
The legislative package on type-approval of vehicles consists of three pieces of legislation. The MAC Directive 2006/40/EC lays down the fundamental requirements of type-approval of MACs whilst Regulation No 706/2007EC and Directive 2007/37/EC provide the technical and administrative details. In case of doubts, the MAC Directive always takes precedence on implementing legislation.
According to the clarification provided by the European Commission, as of 1 January 2011, Member States shall no longer grant whole vehicle, system or component type-approval to a vehicle, if fitted with a MAC system designed to contain F-gases with a GWP higher than 150. This, irrespective of whether the MAC system was type-approved before 2011.

OEMs must get back on track and green their MACs

While the European Investment Bank has just approved a further €866m in loans for cleaner cars, pushing to a grand total of 4.4 bn the amount that has been made available for European car makers since December 2008, OEMs now have to resume work on MACs designed to be fitted with refrigerant with a GWP lower than 150.
In October 2008, the German carmaker association VDA had announced their switch to CO2 MAC refrigerant to comply with the under 150 GWP refrigerant required under the EU MAC directive. While VDA were the only to officially commit to a post R134a refrigerant, other Member States remained silent. On 9 April 2009, German ARD Kontraste program showed that OEMs had purely and simply dismissed the directive.
Following the publication by international newswire Reuters of its article "EU closes climate loophole for car air conditioners" on 20 April, many blogs, forums, national and international media such as Automotive News Europe, Forbes, CNBC, Businessweek or Treehugger have picked up on the news.
R744.com will be updating this article as soon as the European Commission makes the document provided to the Member States and the industry public.