The Busworld 2023 exhibition in Brussels, the largest bus-and-coach-only B2B show globally, highlighted the rapid uptake of R744 (CO2)-based HVAC systems by major OEMs. With prominent players like Konvekta, Valeo, Hispacold, and Thermo King showcasing these next-gen systems, the shift towards sustainable solutions in HVAC is palpable.

Refrigerants in Transition

Karsten Mundt, from Konvekta, spoke to ATMOsphere about the accelerating transition. “Everyone is promoting natural refrigerants. Either they have R-744 systems in the market or are investing heavily in its R&D,” he noted. Konvekta’s own pioneering stance on R-744 is evident in their showcase of a single-deck bus R744-based air-water heat pump system, with over 3,000 units in operation across European cities.

On being asked about the system’s efficiency in high temperatures, Mundt expressed confidence in their units, which are certified up to 47°C [116.6°F]. While there are areas where achieving peak performance remains challenging, R&D is optimistic about imminent breakthroughs.

Regulatory Hurdles and Hope

The recent provisional agreement by the European Parliament and the Council on the EU F-gas was another topic of discussion. Mundt expressed dissatisfaction over mobile air-conditioning being untouched by any ban. He highlighted that even though the products that use these refrigerants are abundant in the market, a significant shift towards sustainable alternatives is evident. The market’s push for low GWP systems often outpaces regulations, with many European tenders now mandating a GWP below 5.

Emphasizing the environmental hazards of fluorinated refrigerants, Mundt mentioned the dual threat they face from the EU F-gas Regulation and REACH. “While we aim for zero emissions vehicles, the refrigerants leaking from HVAC systems can’t be overlooked. They pose significant risks for global warming and drinking water contamination,” he warned.

The Future is Natural

Reflecting on the future, Mundt was unequivocal about the industry’s trajectory: “Natural refrigerants are the future.” This sentiment isn’t just restricted to Europe. Mundt highlighted rising demand from fleet operators in regions as diverse as the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, seeking sustainable HVAC systems that rely on natural refrigerants.

In conclusion, Busworld 2023 served as a testament to the HVAC industry’s commitment to a greener, more sustainable future. As regulations, market demands, and environmental concerns converge, the shift towards natural refrigerants seems both inevitable and imminent.

tl;dr: At Busworld 2023 in Brussels, a significant trend emerged with major OEMs showcasing R744-based HVAC systems, signaling a shift towards sustainable refrigeration solutions for buses. Konvekta, a leading player, has over 3,000 units operating across Europe. Despite regulatory challenges, particularly concerning the EU F-gas agreement, the market is pushing for low GWP solutions. The consensus is clear: the future of HVAC in buses lies in natural refrigerants, with demand rising not just in Europe but also in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.