September 13, 2021
E10: Fuel for Thought
You’ve probably noticed E10 petrol pumps starting to appear at larger garages and service stations across the country but you might not know too much about the latest fuel to hit the forecourt. If that’s you, here’s a quick guide to bring you up to speed.
From 1 September 2021, E10 will be the main type of fuel available in the UK, replacing standard 95 octane petrol (E5). So, pull up at the pump in a petrol-fuelled car and you now have the choice of two types of petrol - E10 and E5.
But what’s the difference?
Well, E10 contains up to 10 per cent renewable ethanol (and 90 per cent regular unleaded fuel). E5 fuel is the old ‘unleaded super’ (or 97+ octane) and it contains around five per cent ethanol.
E10 is being introduced as part of the Government’s decarbonisation plan, which includes a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars in 2030.
It is thought to be better for the environment in two ways.
Firstly, ethanol is produced from plants, including sugarcane and grains - essentially, it’s an agricultural by-product. Which means that the production process for ethanol is a lot less environmentally damaging than the process of mining crude oil and refining it to make petrol.
Secondly, E10 produces fewer emissions when it’s in your car – it has a higher oxygen content and it burns more cleanly. So, in theory, vehicles running on E10 are reducing the carbon load by 10 per cent.
The Government’s website says: ‘the introduction of E10 petrol at UK forecourts could cut transport CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road, or all the cars in North Yorkshire.’ It’s still a hot topic but if that’s true, it’s pretty significant.
Can my car run on E10?
Most cars (more than 95 per cent) – and all cars made after 2011 – can run on E10 fuel. But you can easily check whether your car is compatible here (you just need to know your car’s make and model).
But don’t panic if your car isn’t on the compatibility list, there’s still a ready supply of E5 at most petrol stations (although you might struggle out in the sticks) and the pumps are clearly marked.
You’re more likely to have a compatibility issue if you drive an older vehicle or a classic car. If you’re still unsure after entering your car details into the checker, look in your vehicle manual or contact the manufacturer. Your regular garage may also be able to advise you but, if you’re in any doubt, the advice is to continue to use E5 fuel. That’s because E10 is more corrosive, and it could damage seals and plastics. There’s also some debate about its use in performance cars but, again, you should check compatibility and seek further advice for your specific car.
What are the downsides of E10?
Aside from the fact that it’s not suitable for all cars, there’s some debate about whether E10 is less efficient than standard petrol. That means we could end up having to stop at the petrol pump more often to refill.
And there’s also some uncertainty about its impact on a car that isn’t driven for a long period of time – it’s less stable than standard fuel, so it might be harder to start your car if it’s been unused on the drive or in a garage for a long period of time.
I’ve accidentally used the wrong fuel
If you accidentally fill your car with E10 and it’s not compatible (or you’re not sure of its compatibility), don’t worry. It’s not like filling a petrol car with diesel, so there’s no need to drain the tank or visit your garage. Just make sure you fill it with E5 next time.
And if E10 isn’t available, it’s fine to use E5 in a car that can take E10 fuel. You can even mix them.
If you live in a rural location, you may find that your local fuel station only stocks one type or the other. In cities or more urban areas though, most garages will have both types of fuel.
It’s worth mentioning that there have been no changes to diesel.
E10 is already widely used in many other countries across Europe, the USA and Australia and it’s been used in vehicle emissions tests since 2016. In the States some fuel stations sell E15 but it’s only suitable for use in the newest cars. Sweden even has an E85 fuel! So, stand by for further changes in the UK.
In summary, here are our top five tips:
- Check whether your car is suitable for E10 fuel. Chances are it is, but if you’re driving an older, vintage or high-performance car, you may need to stick with E5.
- Take a moment at the garage to check the labelling on the pump and make sure you’re using the right fuel. It’s easy to make a mistake and, whilst not disastrous, it’s still annoying.
- Remember not to panic if you do accidentally put the wrong fuel in your car. It’s unlikely to cause any problems if it’s a one-off incident.
- Try to start your car regularly if it’s running on E10 but not being used very often. It’s worth building in some regular journeys if you can.
- Start to think ahead and consider whether you’re ready to make the leap to an electric car. It’s worth planning when you’ll next change your car, what it might be, and how long you’re likely to keep it. 2030 (when the ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars comes into force) will creep up on us!