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R744 is the refrigerant name for carbon dioxide, which will first appear in high-end cars from the big German brands.
CO2 requires operating pressures up to ten times higher than R134a. Although it has been used for some time in stationary equipment, getting R744 systems to work for automotive applications has been a significant engineering challenge, with unique components and system layouts required for this refrigerant.
The high pressures involved bring their own safety considerations when working on R744 systems.
As a result, working with R744 will require new service equipment meeting the relevant SAE standards, as well as technical training about the major differences.
The decision by some automotive manufacturers to adopt R744 came from flammability concerns about R1234yf, particularly Mercedes-Benz parent company Daimler. Mercedes-Benz will be first to market with R744 systems in the E-Class and S-Class.
Volkswagen Group has also announced that next-generation Audi A8 and VW Phaeton luxury cars will be its first R744-equipped models.