E10 petrol is up to 10 per cent ethanol and is becoming available at UK fuel stations now as part of the bid to cut CO2 emissions
E10 petrol – a more eco-friendly type of petrol containing up to 10 per cent ethanol – will be available at fuel stations across the UK from 1 September 2021 and become the default form of petrol, with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions. The introduction of E10 is happening already because retailers can’t make the switch overnight, so we're answering some of the questions you may have on this page.
The Department for Transport (DfT) announced the launch of E10 petrol following a consultation with motorists and the automotive industry. E10 – which is a mixture of standard petrol and ethanol made from materials including low grade grains, sugars and waste wood – is expected to cut CO2 emissions on UK roads by as much as 750,000 tonnes per year. This is the equivalent to taking 350,000 cars – or all the cars in North Yorkshire – off the road.
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In addition to helping the UK reach its goal of net zero carbon by 2050, the launch of E10 will also boost the country’s biofuel industry, with the biofuel needed for E10 being refined in the UK.
E10 petrol vs E5 petrol
The E5 petrol previously on sale at British fuel station forecourts contains no more than five per cent ethanol – E10 contains twice as much, but this could cause problems for some cars. All petrol cars built from 2011 onwards are E10 compatible, but the DfT has previously estimated that 700,000 vehicles in the UK are not. An E10 compatibility checker can be found on the DfT's website.
The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) says, for example, that all BMWs can use E10, but warns this is not the case for every marque. Almost all Mercedes models can use E10, but the C200 CGI and CLK 200 CGI made from 2002 to 2005 cannot. Nevertheless, E10 has been sold in Europe – most notably in France and Belgium – alongside E5 for a number of years.
In the UK E10 will not be offered alongside E5 unleaded at the same forecourt, though – once a fuel station has switched to E10, standard E5 will no longer be available there. Motorists whose cars aren’t compatible with E10 will still be able to purchase E5 petrol in super-unleaded form, though, with the DfT confirming the UK will maintain a supply of this fuel.
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Previous research by the RAC Foundation indicated 28,000 Volkswagen Golfs, 18,162 Mazda MX-5s and almost 16,000 Nissan Micras in the UK are unable to run on E10.
A spokesperson from UKPIA (UK Petroleum Industry Association), which represents major fuel suppliers in the UK, advised: “If an owner of a classic or cherished car is uncertain of their vehicle’s compatibility with petrol containing more than 5 per cent ethanol and is unable to obtain guidance from the vehicle manufacturer, they can avoid potential difficulties by using the super grade.”
E10 petrol: quick Q and A
Here's our quick summary of the big questions around the UK's switch to E10 petrol..
Q: Why is E10 being introduced?
A: The extra bioethanol in E10 comes from crops, which absorb carbon dioxide (CO2) as they grow. It’s estimated switching to E10 equates to a two-per-cent reduction in CO2 per car, with the Department for Transport (DfT) expecting E10 to cut UK CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year, equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road.
Q: Can my car run on E10?
A: New cars built from 2011 have to be compatible, and most firms were way ahead of the legislation. But the DfT estimates 700,000 UK cars are incompatible with E10 due to its higher ethanol content potentially damaging rubber, alloy and plastic parts. The RAC Foundation estimates around 28,000 older VW Golfs and 18,000 Mazda MX-5s can’t use E10, for example. Go to the DfT’s compatibility checker (www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol) if you’re concerned.
Q: What do I do if my car can’t use E10?
A: E5 will still be offered in the form of super-unleaded from 1 September. People with incompatible cars should use super-unleaded, although this brings extra costs. Protective additives are also available.
Q: What happens if my car can’t run on E10 but I fill up with it by mistake?
A: Cars that can’t use E10 should still run, but the extra solvents in the fuel can cause damage to fuel pumps, lines and carburettors, especially in the long term.
Q: Why is E10 already at petrol stations?
A: Stations must make E10 their standard grade of unleaded by 1 September, but underground tanks hold up to 100,000 litres, so the switch can’t happen overnight. Petrol labelling rules are strict, so if you see E10 on the pump, that’s what you’re getting.
Q: Will E10 petrol cost more?
A: E10 petrol will not be any more expensive than the E5 unleaded fuel it's replacing but it will increase the cost of filling up for owners of those cars that can't use E10 because they will be forced to use super unleaded fuel which will be remain E5.
Q: Will my car use more fuel on E10?
A: The DfT says using E10 petrol can “slightly reduce” fuel economy, but only by around one per cent.
Q: Does E10 reduce tailpipe CO2?
A: There may be a slight reduction, but this is likely to be offset by any increase in fuel consumption. The real CO2 savings come from the crops grown for the fuel.
Q: What is ethanol?
A: Ethanol is a form of alcohol, and the ethanol in E5 and E10 petrol is bioethanol, meaning it is a renewable fuel derived from growing and fermenting crops such as sugar, wheat and maize. Increasing the ethanol content in petrol brings a reduction in carbon dioxide because ethanol produces less CO2 than petrol when burnt, and because the crops grown to produce it absorb CO2 from the atmosphere.
Q: What happens if you use E10 in a non-compatible car?
A: The consequences of running an incompatible car on E10 can be severe, as James Elliott, editor-in-chief of Auto Express’s sister title, Octane, explained: “These fuels make short work of rubber and fuel lines in older cars. In fact, it has happened on one of my own classics when a section of fuel line perished prematurely and started spewing petrol everywhere. I was lucky that it was spotted and could be made safe on the spot, but I am concerned that not everyone will be so lucky. Any fuel damaging seals and lines that prevent fuel from reaching the hottest parts of the engine is a serious fire risk, and a potential danger to classic cars and their owners.”
You can find out which cars can't use E10 petrol here…
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