E10 arrival in September:The Department for Transport has confirmed that fuel retailers will be selling the greener fuel later this year – though drivers of older cars are warned to avoid it
Filling stations across the UK will switch from E5 to E10 petrol in September, the Department for Transport has confirmed today.
The greener petrol is designed to cut vehicle emissions but will likely increase fuel bills slightly for owners of newer cars – and may astronomically hike running costs for those driving older vehicles that can’t use it.
Models produced up until as recently as the early 2000s may not be compatible with the new fuel, due to its higher bioethanol mix that can cause significant damage to components in older vehicles.
In order to avoid the risk of impairing their cars, ministers have drivers of older cars – of which there are around 700,000 on the road – will need to switch to super unleaded, which will continue to use an 5 per cent E5 mix.
However, this costs around 14p-a-litre more than standard petrol.
Following a consultation with drivers and industry, the introduction of E10 fuel – which is a mixture of petrol and bioethanol made from materials including low grade grains, sugars and waste wood – will be sold by retailers in seven months’ time as part of the Government’s efforts to reach net zero by 2050.
MPs say its introduction on UK roads could cut transport CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road – or all passenger vehicles in North Yorkshire.
For years, experts have warned owners of older cars – especially classic models – that the introduction of the greener fuel might be damaging to their vehicles.
Only since 2011 has it been a requirement for new petrol vehicles to be compatible with E10 unleaded fuel.
Drivers of pre-2002 motors have long been urged not to use the new petrol until they know it safe to do so – and that they may need to take additional measures to prevent E10 unleaded causing significant damage to their cars.
The DfT confirmed this morning that some models produced in the early 2000s and before will continue to need E5 fuel to avoid the greener version harming their vehicles.
It said supplies of E5 petrol will be maintained only in the form of expensive super unleaded.
This is the highest-octane fuel widely available at forecourts and is required for some high-performance Japanese cars and preferable for others (like Porsches), although in most cars any benefits are negligible, says the RAC.
It is currently priced at 136.2p-a-litre compared to 122.5p for standard petrol, according to the motoring organisation – almost a 14p difference.
The forced use of expensive super unleaded will not only hike running costs for owners of classic cars but looks set to burden the lowest-income drivers – those using older motors simply because they cannot afford to replace them with newer ones.
The difference between standard petrol and super unleaded means owners of cars as young as 18-years-old could be expected to pay around £7.70 more each time they fill up, based on a calculation using an average fuel tank size of 55 litres.
Ministers have confirmed that drivers of older cars that cannot run on E10 fuel will need to switch to 5% ethanol super unleaded
RAC Fuel Watch average UK prices show there’s currently almost a 14p-a-litre difference between standard and super unleaded
The Government is advising motorists to use the DfT’s new E10 vehicle compatibility checker launched for drivers to understand if their vehicle is compatible with the greener petrol type when it does arrive in September.
Announcing the stocking of E10 petrol at fuel stations up and down the country from September, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘We’re going further and faster than ever to cut emissions from our roads, cleaning up our air as we accelerate towards a zero-emission transport future.
‘Although more and more motorists are driving electric vehicles, there are steps we can take to reduce emissions from the millions of vehicles already on our roads – the small switch to E10 petrol will help drivers across the country reduce the environmental impact of every journey, as we build back greener.’
Edmund King, president at the AA, raised his concerns about a projected increase in fuel prices for users of E10 when it does arrive.
King highlighted a Government impact assessment, which claimed: ‘Introducing E10 will add to fuel costs paid by motorists. Moving from E5 to E10 is estimated to reduce pump price petrol costs by 0.2 pence per litre. However, as the energy content of the fuel will also decrease, motorists will have to buy more litres of fuel. Overall fuel costs for petrol cars are therefore estimated to increase by 1.6% as a result of moving from E5 to E10.’
Commenting on this, he said: ‘That will rub many drivers up the wrong way but the AA expects the Chancellor, who will get more fuel duty from more fuel consumed, will not have to increase fuel duty in the Budget next week.’
RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams says the higher cost of bioethanol has already pushed up the price of a litre of fuel in the last 12 months. This is because of the biocontent being stepped up gradually by the industry to 10 per cent.
‘The switch to E10 petrol is clearly good news for the environment and will not affect the vast majority of the UK’s 33million car drivers although some may see the number of miles they get from a tank go down as research suggests E10 is potentially slightly less efficient,’ he added.
Industry insiders say the introduction of E10 is the biggest threat to old cars since the switch from leaded to unleaded fuel two decades ago
Experts warn of danger of E10 petrol in older cars
An investigation by insurer Hagerty last year highlighted the risks E10 petrol poses to hundreds of thousands of owners of classic vehicles, modern cars and motorcycles alike.
The report claimed that the introduction of E10 is ‘the biggest threat to old cars since the switch from leaded to unleaded fuel’ two decades ago.
Four-star fuel was banned in Britain from 2000, on environmental grounds.
This resulted in owners of classic cars designed to run on leaded fuel needing to use additives when they filled up at forecourts to protect the vehicle’s engine.
Alternatively, some cars could be adjusted by mechanics so that they could accept regular unleaded.
And it’s for similar concerns over air pollution and CO2 emissions that E10 will soon be dispensed by the nation’s petrol pumps – which could cause problems for drivers of some cars built as recently as 2011, according to official government records.
From September, E10 will become the new standard with up to 10% bioethanol in the blend
What is E10 fuel?
Unleaded fuel currently sold in the UK contains up to five per cent bioethanol, hence the name E5.
Bioethanol is produced solely from crops, such as sugar beet, and isn’t a fossil fuel, so is deemed a renewable source.
Filling stations have by law had to label petrol pumps to state they are E5 from 2019.
However, E5 will soon be phased out and replaced by petrol with twice the bioethanol make up.
From September, E10 will become the new standard with up to 10 per cent bioethanol in the blend.
Classic and performance car owners who buy super unleaded higher octane petrol will not immediately be affected, as this is set to remain at the E5 mix for five more years.
The introduction of E10 fuel will cut UK carbon emissions from vehicles by 750,000 tonnes per year, it has been claimed
Why is E10 being introduced?
With the Government targeting net zero for CO2 emissions in 2050, vehicle pollution is high on the agenda.
It’s for this reason that ministers plan to ban the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2030 as motorists are pushed towards zero-emission electric vehicles.
The introduction of E10 fuel will be part of these efforts too, as it is claimed to cut carbon emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year – the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.
Why is E10 going to be a problem for older – and some recent – cars?
Although many cars run E5 without any problems, doubling the amount of bioethanol in the fuel can cause a variety of issues in older cars.
Because ethanol is hygroscopic, it absorbs water from the atmosphere. And that water, in turn, finds its way into your car.
This can lead to condensation in fuel tanks, fuel lines and carburettors and cause corrosion in brass, copper, lead, tin and zinc components.
As ethanol is also a solvent it can eat through rubber, plastic and fibreglass, so hoses and seals are likely to perish more quickly because of the higher concentration of ethanol in E10.
DfT tests have identified problems including degradation to fuel hoses and seals, blocked fuel filters, damaged fuel pumps, corroded carbs, blocked injectors and corrosion in fuel tanks. Rubber is particularly affected.
In addition, ethanol isn’t as energy dense as petrol which means that the fuel-air mix could be leaner and may increase fuel consumption (in comparison to E5).
Classic cars designed to run on leaded petrol are at greatest risk of danger from E10 fuel due to its high bioethanol content
How many UK cars could be damaged if owners fill up with E10 fuel?
Anyone owning a car made before 2002 is advised not to use E10 – and, worryingly, it can affect cars made as recently as 2011.
Ther DfT has previously stated: ‘While the vast majority of petrol vehicles in use today are fully approved for use with E10, it is not straightforward to set out which vehicles produced prior to 2011 are approved for E10 use, as there are no clear cut-off dates for determining compatibility.
‘Compatibility needs to be confirmed by manufacturers for each model.’
The government department estimates there are 700,000 petrol models in use in the UK that are not approved for use with E10 fuel. This represents around three per cent of all cars on the road.
Around half of these (350,000) are day-to-day use vehicles, it says. These appear as the smallest concern for ministers as they ‘will eventually come to the end of their lifetime and be scrapped’, according to the DfT’s consultation.
However, there will always remain some classic and cherished vehicles in the car fleet that are not advised to use E10.
How will I know if a filling station is using E10 petrol?
Existing legislation already requires that a consumer message must accompany the sale of E10, informing motorists that not all vehicles are approved to use unleaded with up to 10 per cent bioethanol mix.
When fuel stations switch conventional petrol from E5 to E10 in September, this will, by law, need to be stated on the fuel pump.
Mr Shapps’ announcement on Thursday confirmed that supplies of E5 petrol will be maintained in the super grade, providing a solution to owners of older and classic vehicles. This will also need to be clearly flagged to drivers when they visit forecourts.
The Petrol Retailers Association (PRA) had previously stated that there will be an advertising campaign six months before the launch of E10 to advise drivers of the difference between the fuels, and a new website that will allow drivers to check the compatibility of their car with E10 petrol.
Phil Monger, PRA’s technical director, stresses that change won’t be made overnight and believes that many owners of old cars may have already made modifications since the introduction of E5 fuel.
‘Vehicles that are very old will have materials that will not be compatible with E5 either. E10 will only hasten the day when it causes you some difficulty with those materials,’ he said.
Given that the mechanical alterations could run anywhere from hundreds to thousands of pounds, the classic car insurer has already called for all information campaigns to be brought forward, to allow drivers sufficient time to plan and budget accordingly.
‘Hagerty represents the community of owners of classic cars, modern classic cars and motorbikes, and calls on the Government and Petrol Retailers Association to accelerate information campaigns for drivers and riders,’ says Hagerty editor James Mills.
‘There may be extensive mechanical modifications required by some models, which can be a costly exercise – during an already challenging economic environment.’
UK filling stations will, by law, need to label pumps to say that petrol is E10 fuel
My car is not compliant with E10 – what can I do?
Guy Lachlan, managing director of Classic Oils, has outlined some advice to owners of older cars and classics.
‘You’ve either got to use fuel with no ethanol or change the materials that don’t like it,’ he explains.
‘If you are in any doubt about your rubber fuel lines, change them. Get rid of your fibreglass petrol tank and install an aluminium one.
‘The other thing ethanol really doesn’t like is solder. If you are running a soldered float in your carburettor, then think about carrying a spare – they’re generally quite easy to change.’
Hagerty says owners of classic and modern classic cars should consider lead additives for models that are not designed to run on petrol with such high ethanol content.
‘When it comes to storing your car, if it is older than 1996 and doesn’t have a catalytic converter, you can use a lead replacement additive such as Castrol’s Classic Valvemaster which can help prevent corrosion as it also contains an ethanol stabiliser.
‘This product has received endorsement by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs.
‘For modern classics there are catalyst-friendly additives available such as Millers Ethanol Protection Additive or Lucas Oil Ethanol Fuel Conditioner, but your best advice is to check with the car manufacturer or relevant owners club.’
What if I fill up with E10 in error? Can I still drive the car?
If you accidentally pump E10 fuel into a vehicle that isn’t compliant, the RAC says that, unlike putting diesel into a petrol car or vice versa, you shouldn’t need to drain the tank.
While having E10 in the tank will make it harder to start the car from cold, one fill-up shouldn’t – in theory – cause lasting damage to the components.
If you do make this mistake, the advice is to top up with E5 fuel as soon possible, ideally when you’ve used at least a third of the tank.
Motorists are warned to not put their car in storage with a tank full of E10, and to ideally use it up entirely or having a larger mix of E5.
There is a modicum of good news, in that super unleaded is set to remain at the E5 mix for five more years after the introduction of E10, according to the PRA.
With most super unleaded E5 currently only containing between 2 and 3 per cent ethanol, this should be more than sufficient for older vehicles.
However, the bad news is that super unleaded does cost more – typically 15 pence per litre. That means each fill up will cost an extra £6 to £10.