What Is E10 and Why Is It A Problem?

E10 Petrol Forecourt - MAT Foundry

Within two years your local garage forecourt may very well be selling an environmentally friendly fuel billed as E10. Despite aiding efforts to cut greenhouse emissions nationwide there is one notable drawback … not all cars will be compatible.

Is Your Car Compatible?

Yes, as unlikely as it seems, almost one million of us will be warned off this ‘greener gas’ due to the sheer age of our vehicles. Moreover, it is not just archaic motors excluded from the party.

Instead household and enduring names alike - amongst them Mazda, Rover and Nissan Micra’s - will be left on the outside looking in, this as rivals do their bit to cut CO2.

Concerns inevitably abound as to the number of unqualified come unsuspecting motorists likely to sample the new product. Naturally then, communication will be ratchetted up to distinguish between fuel types and spare drivers the cost turned embarrassment of topping up with unsuitable petroleum.

The bigger question though is not so much how to stop drivers pumping the wrong fuel but why we need to. Given its seeming impact on carbon footprints, should E10 not be a universal solution? At the last count 868,000 UK motorists may be left pondering as much.


So, what exactly is E10?

Simply put it is a formula made up of 90% regular unleaded petrol and – significantly – 10% bioethanol. To the delight of environmentalists, the latter absorbs carbon dioxide, resulting in a reduction of harmful greenhouse gasses stemming from the likes of tailpipes.

In basic terms, the higher your level of bioethanol, the less your carbon output.

Environmental agency ePURE believe greenhouse gas emissions could be cut by almost 6% if E10 is adopted here. This is music to the ears of British ministers, who still aim to see 10% of transport energy originate from renewable sources within the next two years. A bold and some would say unrealistic target, E10 will certainly help the pursuit.

Already widely available throughout the US, Europe and Australia it could be argued the UK has been somewhat slow on the uptake. Perhaps reservations prevented the Department for Transport even debating its introduction until last month, for E10 is not without failings...


Indeed, its very make-up is dependent on the fermentation of plants like barley, corn, sorghum and sugar cane. Deforestation is therefore a very real threat. The loss of forestry and all that entails would bring its own CO2 issues and ignominy.

Furthermore, experts doubt E10 will prove half as efficient as the E5 fuel it seeks to displace. The likelihood is exponents will need to fill up with greater frequency, which hardly appeals.

Looking ahead the expectancy is only larger garages will be required to stock E10 when it is rolled out in two years time. Any forecourt selling three million litres of fuel is deemed as such. Sensibly perhaps, those same garages will also be instructed to stock E5 alongside it.

E10 Petrol - MAT Foundry

Less obvious however is exactly what guidance will be given to smaller petrol stations. In all likelihood they will be forced to stock one or the other – upsetting one group in the process.

Referring back to those left behind, owners of vehicles built from 2011 onwards will not be impacted. Indeed, E10 compatibility was made mandatory on all models manufactured from that point.

But what of everyone else? The RAC Foundation recently undertook research that indicated as many as 150,000 cars made after the year 2000 will be on UK roads yet ineligible for E10 fuel come 2020.

Even estimates for the scrapping of older vehicles does not result in the overall number dipping below 634,300. This is slightly better than the 7.8% of UK traffic initially predicted but still a sizable number.

Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has acknowledged the need for clear communication in the run-up to any introduction. Expect to see television, magazine and billboard adverts highlighting the do’s and don’ts of E10, while radio is another medium likely to be flooded.

In summary this greener gas will do a lot of good for the environment but could just so easily do a lot of bad to non-compatible cars. It always pays to know exactly what you are putting into your vehicle, particularly if it’s of a certain vintage. That adage will certainly ring true in 2020. 


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