Car makers are lobbying the European Union to delay an agreed 2011 ban on climate-damaging chemicals in car air-conditioners, a letter from auto industry group ACEA shows.

The European Union ruled in 2006 that from 2011 it would ban the use of fluorinated chemicals, such as the industry standard known as R134a, which have a powerful climate-warming effect when released into the atmosphere.

The EU closed a legal loophole in April after learning that car makers were planning to use it to avoid the ban until 2017. But ACEA said they still needed more time.

Car manufacturers need sufficient lead-time of at least two-three years past January 1, 2011 to adjust to the changed situation, ACEA said in a letter to the European Commission seen by Reuters on Tuesday.

ACEA requests that the Commission work with the member states to find a pragmatic solution, it added.

ACEA's push follows success by auto manufacturers last year in delaying an EU plan to cut carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas from burning fossil fuels.

It said automakers would need to invest an extra 40-200 euros ($55 to $280) per vehicle to meet the refrigerant standards, which could not be passed on to consumers in the current tough economic climate.


But environmentalists say the industry has already been given nearly five years to cut out climate-damaging refrigerants, and less harmful alternatives are widely available as a cheap, easy way of curbing damage to the climate.

A new market is emerging for greener refrigerants, with industry giant Honeywell International pitching its HFO-1234yf coolant against rival carbon dioxide-based cooling systems such as that of Austria's Obrist Engineering and U.S.-based Visteon.

The technology is developed and technology proven, but the car makers haven't placed the orders, a director at one major supplier of green refrigerants said on condition of anonymity for fear of angering car manufacturers.

The industry could provide millions of units, he added. As soon as they place the orders, we are ready to jump.

A scientific report on Tuesday showed greenhouse gases from refrigerants and air-conditioning were more harmful to the climate than previously thought.

In the worst case, use of hydrofluorocarbons could surge to cause global warming in 2050 equivalent to the impact of between 28 and 45 percent of emissions of carbon dioxide, Dutch and American scientists said in the U.S. journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

(Reporting by Pete Harrison)