We’ve all heard of bad ‘E’ numbers, but unlike its food counterparts, E10 (which will become the UK’s new greener standard petrol) aims to reduce harmful emissions produced by our gas guzzlers as part of the UK government’s ambitious drive to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to net zero by 2050.
The government estimates the greener fuel could reduce CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year, which is equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road; all without requiring investments in large-scale infrastructure changes or new technologies.
All that sounds great for the environment and the public purse, however there is a slight catch for over 900,000 petrol vehicles currently active on UK roads — they will not be compatible.
What is E10 petrol?
E10 petrol may be new to the UK market, but if you’ve driven in Finland, France, Germany or Belgium in the last few years, you may already be well acquainted with it as it has been available on the continent since it was first introduced by the EU Fuel Quality Directive in January 2011. Commonly displayed as ‘E10’ or ‘E-10’, it refers to petrol which contains up to 10% renewable bioethanol by volume which is twice as much ethanol as our current E5 standard/premium grade which it will be replacing in September 2021.
What is ethanol?
Ethanol is an alcohol based fuel produced by the natural fermentation of sugars from crops such as wheat, corn and sugarcane collectively known as “biomass”. It has been identified as a cleaner form of energy which can be mixed with petrol to power vehicles without modifying the existing engine design.
Unlike fossil fuel, bioethanol is a renewable and partially carbon-neutral fuel as the crops used to create it absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than is emitted during the refinement process and burning of the fuel in an internal combustion engine (ICE).
The additional 5% ethanol in the petrol also means less fossil fuel exists in the mixture which in turn emits less carbon dioxide into the environment.
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How will E10 affect my car?
All petrol cars sold in the UK since 2011 including the majority of older petrol-powered vehicles currently in use on UK roads will be able to run E10 petrol without an issue. Around 900,000 vehicles mainly consisting of older/classics, mopeds and some contemporary models will however not be able to use E10. Drivers of cars registered prior to 2002 are advised not to use E10 in their vehicle unless otherwise stated in the owner’s manual specific to the vehicle.
For these vehicles, drivers currently relying on standard unleaded E5 could see an increase of up to £165 per year (0.20p per litre) at the pump for “Super” grade unleaded E5 (97+ octane) petrol which will remain available at some forecourts across the country.
Will my car run on E10?
The new E10 fuel change will only affect petrol powered vehicles including Petrol Hybrid (PHEV) models. Diesel and electric powered vehicles are not affected by the change.
Using data provided by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association, we’ve put together an E10 fuel checker that will allow you to check the compatibility of your vehicle with the new E10 petrol. We’ve also integrated the E10 fuel check to our free car check service.
If in doubt or your petrol vehicle or equipment is not compatible with E10 fuel, you will still be able to use E5 by purchasing the “Super” (97+ octane) petrol from most filling stations.
Can I mix E10 with E5 fuel?
If your vehicle is compatible with E10 petrol, there is no harm in mixing both E10 and E5 fuel in the same tank. Similarly, there is no harm in filling up with E5 petrol where E10 is not available.
How to identify E10 petrol
At the petrol station, a circular ‘E10’ or ‘E5’ label will be clearly visible on both the petrol dispenser and the nozzle (green in colour), which should make it easy for you to identify the correct petrol to use.
The circle represents petrol with the ‘E’ referring to “Ethanol” and the number 5 or 10 denoting the percentage in volume of ethanol in the petrol mixture.
Will E10 petrol damage my car?
The majority of petrol vehicles will be compatible and able to use E10 fuel safely without causing any damage to the vehicle’s engine or fuel system.
For vehicles not approved for use with the new E10 fuel, the higher amount of ethanol could degrade and damage the rubber pipes, plastics, metals and seals in the fuel system with prolonged use due to the corrosive properties in bioethanol. This could lead to fuel leaks, poor engine performance and engine damage.
Unlike putting petrol into a diesel engine, your vehicle will not suffer engine damage or long term effects should you mistakenly run it on a single tank of E10 fuel if not compatible. There is no need to drain it, just remember to fill up with “Super unleaded” E5 (97+ octane) petrol next time you’re at the pump.