DIRECTIVE 2006140/EC states: “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.”
This means that new vehicles, which require type approval will no longer be able to be filled with R134a refrigerant (as it has a GWP much higher than 150). Vehicle manufacturers are in the final stages of confirming the changeover to R1234yf—this is a new refrigerant which has only been developed in the past couple of years, which has a GWP of 4. The couplings for this new refrigerant will be different to those for R134a, so you will not be able to connect to the system by accident.
R1234yf will not be backwards compatible with R134a systems, so you cannot remove the old gas and refill immediately with the new gas.
However, if you have recently invested in a new Air Conditioning Service Machine, do not despair! Vehicles which have already been type-approved can continue to be filled from new with R134a until January 2017, and of course they will still require annual servicing and refills for many years after that.
Since 4th July 2010, it has been law that anyone who works with servicing vehicle air conditioning needs to be qualified to a recognised standard. ICT Workshop Solutions can provide the training, accredited by IMI Awards, which exceeds the requirements of the law, and which will provide vehicle technicians with the necessary skills to ensure that they are working safely with these potentially harmful substances.