From September 2021 if you have a car that was manufactured prior to 2011 you might need to be aware of what you are putting into the fuel tank. This is because the Government has deemed that September will be the month that the E10 grade of fuel is introduced in the UK.
Rather like the time when leaded 4-star petrol ceased being readily available in 2000, there is a little cause for concern here. The new grade of petrol, E10, is the next step in the quest to reduce emissions and clean up the country, but it might cause issues depending on how old your vehicle is.
What Is It?
E10 grade petrol will contain 10-percent bio-ethanol. If this is complete news to you then you should be aware that from 2019, petrol has contained 5-percent bio-ethanol – E5. Bio-ethanol is a derivative of crops like sugar beet and as such is not a fossil fuel and is classed as renewable.
Why the Concern?
You might think an extra 5-percent is not much to worry about, but some motoring organisations, like the RAC, have warned ‘buyer beware’ over the potential issues that this change in the fuel cocktail might cause for older vehicle engines.
Back in 2000 when 4-star began to disappear, there was much concern among classic car owners being forced to fill up with unleaded. Put simply, it was new territory and owners felt like they were being asked to ‘guinea pig’ trial something unknown that could potentially cause damage to their vehicles. In many cases, unleaded would work ok in classic car engines (the later classic Beetle for example) and there was little to worry about, apart from a slight performance drop off.
As ethanol is hygroscopic (has a tendency to adsorb moisture) there is the potential risk of condensation within fuel tanks, lines and carbs potentially causing rusting problems that will eventually show further down the line as a part failure. Not just that; ethanol is a solvent and can thus cause damage to some plastics and rubber as well as fibreglass.
It’s not just theorising either; the Department of Transport has carried out tests that have showed ethanol to cause degradation in fuel hoses and various (often rubber or plastic) seals. That’s not all – the DoT also found the resulting use of E10 could eventually result in blocked fuel filters and injectors, and corrosion in carburettors and fuel tanks.
So that’s a lot to consider – it adds to the fact that E10 might also provide lower efficiency (as in miles to the gallon – rather similar to how some perceived unleaded to affect their vehicles) due to being less energy ‘dense’.
Who Is Affected?
It’s getting a bit like owning a computer isn’t it. You spend a fortune on your perfect machine and lo and behold, in just 5 year’s time you find that it is no longer supported and you are being encouraged to buy a new one. It still works – for now – but the end of the road for your still working PC is in sight.
As for new cars sold after 2011, there is nothing to worry about – all new cars since this date have had to be E10 compatible. That’s all well and good; especially if you are a habitual leaser, but the RAC estimates that there will be in excess of 600,000 cars currently on the road that will not be compatible with E10 petrol. In fact, the stark advise is that if you own a car built before 2002 then you should not use E10 fuel.
The Good News
Well is there any? I’m not sure. It’s worth noting that the UK is behind the curve when it comes to the introduction of E10. Germany introduced it in 2011, but that only tends to give us a rather ominous prediction: The German government faced a huge backlash as land was set aside for production of bio-ethanol with the accusation of deforestation and the destruction of wetlands. And the aforementioned lower fuel economy figures have led to serious questions about just how much E10 will actually be combatting Co2 emissions in real world terms.
Not only does E10 give you (arguably) less miles to the gallon, but it will cost more – around 15p per litre. So even if you drive a vehicle built after 2011, then there is probably still some cause to feel a little hard done by.
Ok, that isn’t good news as such, but at least there will not be a cut-off date for E5 in September 2021 – the UK will allow the two fuel types to co-exist for 5-years. That’s good news.
What Does the Government Say?
The Government says that E10 could reduce CO2 on our roads by up to 750,000 tonnes annually – which is the equivalent of around 350,00 cars. Let’s face it, it is another step towards attaining green transport targets as we rapidly head towards there being only electric vehicles on our roads. On thing is for sure – more sugar beet derived bio-ethanol in fuel is food for thought.
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