If you've been to a petrol station recently, you may have noticed a new symbol on the pump: 'E10'. This will have come as a shock to drivers who didn't realise that the standard UK fuel was changing. The change hasn't been well-publicised, so, what is E10 fuel?
By the end of this article, we will have introduced you to E10 fuel as well as explaining:
- How it differs from the current fuel
- How to check if your car is compatible with E10
- What to do if it isn't
- How much E10 will cost
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What is E10 Fuel?
E10 is a greener biofuel which is now the standard form of unleaded petrol in the UK, as of September 1st 2021. It contains 90% regular unleaded fuel and 10% ethanol (an organic chemical compound produced by fermenting sugar or yeast). It is only a new form of petrol and diesel remains unchanged.
It is already the standard fuel in Belgium, Finland, France and Germany as well as Australia, the US and plenty of other European countries. E10 has also been the reference fuel for emissions and performance testing since 2016.
Is E10 Good or Bad?
Well, it brings us one step closer to becoming a Carbon-neutral country. E10 can reduce C02 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year - the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road. That works out as all the cars in North Yorkshire!
While E10 is very good as a carbon offsetting fuel, it will cause a few problems. An estimated 600,000 cars aren't compatible with the fuel, so some drivers will have to spend more on fuel than they currently do. More on this later.
How is it Different to E5 Petrol?
E5 only contains 5% ethanol and so it is less environmentally friendly than E10. This is the main difference between the two fuels.
However, WhatCar? have already reported that E10 may be less efficient than E5, especially if your car has a small engine. Their report suggests that it produces 33% less energy than pure gasoline, but the impact this will have on the average UK driver is not yet known.
There have also been reports that suggest E10 is a less stable fuel. This would make it more difficult to start a vehicle that hasn't been driven for a long time. Again, the impact is currently unknown.
Will My Car Run on E10 Fuel?
All new cars sold in the UK after 2011 will run on E10 fuel and all cars registered pre-2002 are advised not to use E10. Between 2002 and 2011, it's a bit more of a lottery.
The Government recommends that the following vehicles won't be compatible:
- Classic cars
- Specific models from the early 2000s (including several Vauxhalls and VWs)
- Mopeds, especially those with 50cc engines or smaller
You can check whether your vehicle is compatible with E10 petrol through the official Government checker. If you're still in doubt, continue to use E5 or check your vehicle handbook or with your manufacturer.
What Do I Need to Do If My Car Can't Use E10?
Cars that are incompatible with E10 fuel need to continue using E5 petrol. Fortunately, there are no plans to remove this from the UK and it will be widely available from larger petrol stations as 'Super Unleaded' fuel.
If in doubt, look out for a big 'E10' or 'E5' label on the fuel pump. They will always be easy to spot.
What Should I Do if I Put the Wrong Fuel in?
Don't panic. Fortunately, filling up with E10 instead of E5 isn't as bad as putting diesel in a petrol car or vice versa.
The Government website states that all you need to do is 'fill up with E5 ('97+ octane) next time.' A single tank is not a major problem, but repeated use in an incompatible car can cause harm.
Repeated use can damage seals, plastics and metals as a result of the corrosive nature of bioethanol. It can also cause rough running, pre-detonation ('pinking') and poor cold starting. If your vehicle is incompatible with E10, just top up with E5 as soon as possible (once you've used 1/3 to 1/2 a tank).
How Much Will E10 Fuel Cost? Will It Be Cheaper?
E10 fuel is now the standard fuel in the UK. When a petrol station displays the price for Unleaded Petrol, this is how much it will cost to fill up with E10. Therefore, it will still be fairly reasonable, but still subject to petrol price fluctuations.
This does mean that E5 fuel will become more expensive. UK drivers who still need this fuel will end up paying between £3.39 and £6.50 more per tank depending on where they live (based on a 50-litre tank of fuel).