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Greenpeace backs Daimler in EU car coolant row

Global environmental organization Greenpeace has sided with carmaker Daimler in its resistance to a new EU-backed car coolant. The German auto giant characterizes the substance as easily inflammable and highly toxic.

The EU-approved new car cooling substance, called R1234yf, was unnecessary and would pose incalculable risks in accidents, Greenpeace said Thursday.

The global environmental organization would support German luxury carmaker Daimler in its resistance to introduce the new refrigerant, said Greenpeace's special projects' coordinator Wolfgang Lohbeck.

"I want to explicitly thank Daimler for being the only car manufacturer to oppose the introduction of a dangerous and unnecessary new class of CFCs," Lohbeck told German daily newspaper the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

Since January 1, EU norms demand that the automobile industry must use the new substance in all cars built after June 12. The decision included a ban on a previously used coolant called R134a because it has been found to damage the climate when released into the air.

However, German luxury carmaker Daimler has refused to phase out R134a citing safety concerns over the only available replacement.

In more than 80 crash tests, Daimler said it had found out that cars caught fire more easily during an accident and that the new cooling agent would turn into a highly toxic acid when burning.

The row has intensified ever since France imposed a sales ban on Daimler's latest Mercedes A, B and CLA-class models because they still contain the older agent.

Even though the ban is in breach of EU rules on the free movement of goods across the single market, the EU Commission on Tuesday gave provisional backing to France's decision.

EU Industry Commissioner Antonio Tajani claimed France had been entitled to block the sale of the cars as they did not conform to their type-approval.

Daimler said, however, that the cars had been approved by the German registration authority, KBA, and that the permit was valid across Europe.

Germany now has until August 20 to answer queries from the EU Commission, with Brussels having another 10 weeks thereafter to decide how to proceed on the issue.

uhe/kms (AFP, Reuters)