The truth about the change to E10
Updated: May 21, 2020
In 2021, as part of the UK Government’s Road to Zero strategy, the standard grade of unleaded petrol is set to change from E5 to E10. The change in the specification is to help reduce the carbon impact of liquid fuels.
What is E10 fuel?
Unleaded fuel at the forecourt is a blend of mineral fuel produced from crude oil and a renewable element, ethanol. It is graded according to the maximum percentage of ethanol allowed in the fuel. The current grade is known as E5, with the maximum amount of ethanol being 5%. In 2021 this is set increase to 10% and E10 may be the new grade.
The ethanol in fuel is made from crops and not a fossil fuel and given the term bioethanol. A proportion of the bioethanol is produced from waste materials; this adds to the green credentials of the product. The Government has also introduced a crop cap that limits the percentage of bioethanol produced from virgin crops, limiting the environmental impact of the fuel.
Many European countries have been running on E10 for some years. After initial confusion for road users, leading to an increase in demand for premium fuels, it is now the standard grade across much of Europe.
Can I use E10 in my car?
Since 2011 all petrol cars must be E10 compatible. Inevitably some older cars may not be compatible. According to the Department for Transport (DfT), this number may be as high as 700,000 cars. Ethanol can damage seals and hoses within these cars, leading to damage of fuel pumps, injectors and carburettors.
If your vehicle is older than 2011, there is still a chance that it can run on E10. Many cars built before this date are still compatible with the grade. The advice is to check your handbook and contact your manufacturer if you are unsure.
Fuel producers will not increase the ethanol from current levels in high Octane premium petrol. If your car isn’t compatible with E10, you will still be able to purchase fuel, but this is likely to be the more expensive premium grade.
The benefit of the move to E10
According to the DfT, the switch from E5 to E10 is the equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road as it will cut tailpipe emissions by around 2%. The move is an essential step towards reducing our carbon emissions and one that 98% of cars currently on the road can take.
For additional resource, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association published a list of compatible cars from their members, which you can find here.