The UK government has recently announced that September 2021 will see E10 fuel become the norm at petrol stations across the UK. However, what is E10 fuel, and why are drivers of older cars so concerned about it?
According to the UK government, E10 fuel could reduce carbon emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year. On paper, it all sounds positive, but potentially hundreds of thousands of cars could be incompatible with the new fuel.
Before E10 fuel shows up at your local forecourt, you must know about any potential issues it could have with your car.
Below, we discuss what E10 petrol is, answer some frequently asked questions, list its benefits and drawbacks and explain its introduction.
What is E10 petrol?
“E10” refers to the percentage of ethanol found in petrol. Currently, E5 is the standard, meaning 5% of petrol fuel contains ethanol.
So, when someone says, “what is E10 fuel?” the answer isn’t that it’s a new or unique fuel type; the name refers to the petrol having 10% ethanol.
E5 petrol causes no problems with any petrol-fuelled vehicle. However, increasing the concentration to 10% can mean trouble for older cars.
Why is E10 fuel a problem for older cars?
Figures estimate that roughly 600,000 cars on the road won’t be able to use E10 fuel. The problem is so big that the government has created an official E10 compatibility checker.
So, does E10 fuel damage engines if you drive an older car? To simplify the issue, if you drive a vehicle manufactured before 2002, then it is very likely it can’t use E10 fuel. E10 fuel may not cause problems right away, but it will wear down your plastics, seals and metals.
Essentially, older cars don’t have the materials to deal with the extra corrosion caused by 5% more ethanol. All vehicles manufactured after 2011 must be able to use E10 fuel. If your car is from between 2002 and 2010, then it’s worth using the compatibility checker.
Advantages of E10 petrol
There is one significant advantage to E10 fuel: carbon offsetting. Ethanol, compared to fossil fuels, is renewable. Using more ethanol in fuel means a decrease in fossil fuel use. Roughly, E10 fuel offsets 5% of carbon per vehicle.
The production of ethanol also creates by-products such as animal feed and stored carbon dioxide. While there will be a shift to electric cars soon, in the meantime, changes to the composition of petrol seem like a logical way to reduce the environmental impact of vehicles.
However, E10 isn’t all positive. There are some downsides, too.
Disadvantages of E10 petrol
E10 fuel may reduce overall carbon, but it won’t improve air quality. E10 petrol produces the same volume of particulates as other fuel types. Issues with inner-city air quality, smog and other common pollution side effects will persist.
Additionally, more ethanol could mean a lower fuel economy. If drivers need to use more fuel, then the finances of car owners will be stretched further.
Of course, the final issue with E10 fuel is what we mentioned earlier: E10 fuel in older cars. The introduction of E10 is an essential step for the climate, but classic car drivers may one day see themselves struggling to find a forecourt that can serve them.
From a car preservation perspective, this is worrying, and the industry needs answers on how we can continue to support classic cars in an era where they may not be able to access fuel.
When is E10 petrol being introduced?
According to news reports, E10 fuel will be introduced in September 2021. The introduction will be small at first, but other countries which have already introduced E10, such as Finland, are now reporting that 68% of fuel pumps use it.
When E10 fuel is here, expect it to stay.
E10 petrol: what to do if you put it in an older car?
Putting E10 fuel in an older petrol car is not as disastrous as putting diesel in it. However, it does cause problems over the long term. The effects depend on the engine type and volume of fuel added.
However, you’ll usually experience some cold starting and weaker performance.
To remedy it, fill up the tank with E5 fuel once you’ve burned some of the E10 petrol off through driving.
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