What is eco-petrol?

Fuel has been in the news a lot recently, but whilst the shortages and delivery issues have made the headlines, the news about the introduction of eco-petrol has gone relatively unnoticed by many drivers. The RAC reports that around 24% of drivers are unaware that from September this year eco-petrol or ‘E10’ has become the new standard at forecourts across the UK.

So what exactly is E10, and more importantly what do the changes mean for the average motorist?

In order to understand more about Eco-Fuel we first need to look at the previous make up of petrol in the UK. The standard unleaded petrol that had been used until recently is called E5, this fuel is comprised of up to 5% ethanol and the remaining 95% is regular unleaded petrol. The new eco-petrol is named E10 and as the name might suggest, is comprised of 10% ethanol and 90% regular unleaded petrol. Ethanol is an alcohol and typically made from grains, sugars, paper waste and waste-wood.

The change has been made with the aim of reducing greenhouse gas emissions on UK roads in line with the government’s aim of achieving net zero targets by 2050. This change to fuel alone is estimated to cut transport CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year, which is the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off UK roads. The government also hopes that this might provide a jobs boost at two large bioethanol plants in the Northeast of England, as well as within the agricultural supply chain that will supply the raw production materials.

For many motorists there is no real action to take. The UK government estimates that 95% of vehicles on the road will be compatible with this new grade of fuel. E10 will not be more expensive at the pump than the previous standard petrol. Although there are some reports which state that it can have a marginal impact on fuel economy, which is estimated to be around 1mpg difference. Although the E10 grade is new to the UK it isn’t at all new to the industry, this grade has been the standard in countries including Belgium, Finland, France and Germany for a number of years.

However, there are some motorists who will be affected by the changes. If you are driving vehicle from the early 2000’s or earlier, particularly performance vehicles or a classic car; then you will need to switch to E5 super unleaded instead. Using E5 super unleaded may bump up your running costs as this fuel grade is typically more expensive. It also may mean shopping around as all petrol stations may not stock E5 super unleaded as standard. The RAC estimates that around 1.6% of cars, around 600,000 vehicles in total will be affected by this.

Filling a non-compatible car will E10 isn’t necessarily a disaster, the current advice is to top up with the correct E5 fuel as soon as possible rather than paying for an expensive fuel drain. The RAC advises that it may lead to some temporary rough running of the engine, but shouldn’t cause any long term problems as long as it is not left in the tank for long periods. If it is left unused in the tank for a long period this is when the increased ethanol content may damage seals and metals within the car.

The government has set up a website where drivers can check whether their car will run on E10 fuel. You can check this here. If you are at all unsure about compatibility, then it’s always a good idea to get in touch with your car manufacturer directly.

Sources: https://www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol & https://media.rac.co.uk/pressreleases/one-in-four-drivers-still-in-the-dark-about-new-standard-grade-of-petrol-being-introduced-this-month-3124653