AA says don't panic buy fuel ahead of September switchover to E10 petrol


The AA has warned Britons not to panic buy petrol ahead of the introduction of E10 unleaded next year - though says petrol-powered lawnmowers and generators won't be able to run on the greener fuel

The AA has warned Britons not to panic buy petrol ahead of the introduction of E10 unleaded next year – though says petrol-powered lawnmowers and generators won’t be able to run on the greener fuel

The arrival of greener E10 petrol is just a month away but the AA has told drivers there’s no need to panic buy fuel.

With forecourts already changing the E5 logos to E10 on their standard unleaded pumps ahead of the fuel’s official introduction next month, the motoring group says drivers do not need to fill jerry cans and brim their tanks because the likelihood is their car will run fine on the new petrol.

One of its experts says that 98 per cent of petrol cars in the UK car run on unleaded with a higher bioethanol mix without any issues – though drivers with older models could face problems. 

And so could anyone using petrol-powered garden machinery or generators, which it says won’t be able to run on the new petrol.

Here’s everything you need to know about the switch to E10 petrol. 

AA says only 2% of cars can’t use E10 – but all petrol lawnmowers shouldn’t use it 

As part of the Government’s drive to reduce CO2 emissions, the higher concentration of bioethanol added to unleaded petrol from 5 per cent to 10 per cent is claimed – by MPs – to cut traffic-related CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year – the same as taking 350,000 cars off the road today.

While the fuel will ultimately be greener for the environment, it won’t be better to your wallet.

That’s because a report published by the Department for Transport has already revealed that E10 will not be as efficient as E5, meaning drivers will need to fill up more often.

It’s worse news for classic car owners and those will models built before 2002, as some older cars could be damaged by prolonged use of the new petrol type (find out more about this below). 

From September, E10 will become the new standard with up to 10% bioethanol in the blend

From September, E10 will become the new standard with up to 10% bioethanol in the blend

However, the AA says only 2 per cent of the nation’s car parc will not be compatible with E10 petrol when it does arrive in a matter of weeks. 

‘Over 98 per cent of petrol cars in the UK can run perfectly well on E10, but some older models, classic cars and motorcycles shouldn’t use it,’ says AA technical specialist, Greg Carter.

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‘The extra bioethanol content can be more corrosive to older fuel system components, so drivers of older cars and motorcycles should check the Government website before heading to the pump.’

Carter also warned that the switch to greener fuel is more likely to impact those who have petrol-powered lawnmowers, who should from next month only buy super unleaded for their garden equipment.

‘Petrol powered garden machinery and generators are also likely not to be compatible, so these should use super unleaded after September,’ Carter explains.

Currently, super unleaded costs 144.5p-a-litre on average in the UK, according to RAC Fuel Watch at the time of publishing. 

That’s almost 10p per litre more than standard petrol (134.8p on average), meaning drivers of older cars and those with garden equipment running on unleaded should expect their fuel bills to increase. 

The AA technician added: ‘If you do drive an incompatible vehicle and accidentally fill up with E10, don’t worry, just fill up with super unleaded next time. 

‘There’s no need to get it drained as it takes some time for any damage to occur.’

Petrol powered garden machinery - such as lawnmowers - and generators are also likely not to be compatible with E10 fuel, so these should use super unleaded after September, says the AA

Petrol powered garden machinery – such as lawnmowers – and generators are also likely not to be compatible with E10 fuel, so these should use super unleaded after September, says the AA

Expect your fuel bills to rise from next month because E10 will not be as efficient as E5 petrol

In its impact assessment about the introduction of E10 fuel published last year, the Government stated: ‘Introducing E10 will add to fuel costs paid by motorists. Moving from E5 to E10 is estimated to reduce pump price petrol costs by 0.2 pence per litre. 

‘However, as the energy content of the fuel will also decrease, motorists will have to buy more litres of fuel. 

‘Overall fuel costs for petrol cars are therefore estimated to increase by 1.6 per cent as a result of moving from E5 to E10.’   

If the switch equates to a 1.6 per cent increase in UK petrol consumption, the Treasury may see income from fuel duty increase by £13million-a-month, or £156million-a-year. 

Latest HMRC statistics show that in May, with car travel back to 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, UK petrol consumption was back to 1.312billion litres. In 2019, monthly petrol consumption averaged 1.404 billion litres.

The AA says this will likely help the Treasury claw back some of the lost income from CO2-based Vehicle Excise Duty now that more tax-free electric vehicles are being used on the road.

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Earlier this month, the Government backed away from road pricing as an alternative to fuel duty, however, with the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles less than nine years away, it has to find a way to claw back a £765-a-year loss in fuel duty once fossil fuel cars disappear from our roads.

Bosdet added: ‘For now, things are rosy for the Treasury: revived fuel duty income from more car travel, increased petrol consumption from E10, and 3p-per-litre extra in VAT from petrol rising from 114p to 133p-a-litre.’   

Industry insiders say the introduction of E10 is the biggest threat to old cars since the switch from leaded to unleaded fuel two decades ago

Industry insiders say the introduction of E10 is the biggest threat to old cars since the switch from leaded to unleaded fuel two decades ago

What is E10 petrol and why is it being introduced?

Unleaded currently sold in the UK contains up to five per cent bioethanol, hence the name E5. Bioethanol is produced solely from crops, such as sugar beet, low-grade grains and waste wood, and is deemed a renewable source.

From September, greener petrol with a 10 per cent bioethanol mix will become the new standard.

MPs say its introduction on UK roads will have eco credentials to the equivalent of taking ever vehicle registered in North Yorkshire off the road.

However, experts have for years warned owners of older cars – especially classic models – that E10 petrol could impair their vehicles. 

Drivers of pre-2002 motors in particular have long been urged not to use the new petrol until they know it safe to do so – and that they may need to take additional measures to prevent E10 unleaded causing significant damage.

Is my car compatible with E10 fuel?

All cars produced from 2011 have been required to be able to run on E10 fuel. 

You can find out if your car is safe to use it by visiting the online checker tool.

The introduction of E10 fuel will cut UK carbon emissions from vehicles by 750,000 tonnes per year, it has been claimed. However, owners of vehicles that shouldn't use it due to the higher bioethanol mix will have to fork out for more expensive Super Unleaded, which will continue to use a 5% ratio of bioethanol

The introduction of E10 fuel will cut UK carbon emissions from vehicles by 750,000 tonnes per year, it has been claimed. However, owners of vehicles that shouldn’t use it due to the higher bioethanol mix will have to fork out for more expensive Super Unleaded, which will continue to use a 5% ratio of bioethanol

My car is not compatible with E10 petrol. What damage could it cause?

Doubling the amount of bioethanol in fuel can cause a variety of issues in older vehicles, classic car insurer Hagerty tells us: ‘Because ethanol is hygroscopic, it absorbs water from the atmosphere. And that water, in turn, finds its way into your car. 

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‘This can lead to condensation in fuel tanks, fuel lines and carburettors and cause corrosion in brass, copper, lead, tin and zinc components. 

‘As ethanol is also a solvent it can eat through rubber, plastic and fibreglass, so hoses and seals are likely to perish more quickly because of the higher concentration of ethanol in E10.’

Even Department for Transport tests have identified resulting damage to classic by E10 petrol. 

Degradation to fuel hoses, seals and rubber components, blocked fuel filters, damaged fuel pumps, corroded carbs, blocked injectors and corrosion in fuel tanks have all been acknowledged in official documents.

Guy Lachlan of Classic Oils provided Hagerty with some advice to owners of older cars and classics: ‘You’ve either got to use fuel with no ethanol or change the materials that don’t like it. 

‘If you are in any doubt about your rubber fuel lines, change them. Get rid of your fibreglass petrol tank and install an aluminium one.

‘The other thing ethanol really doesn’t like is solder. If you are running a soldered float in your carburettor, then think about carrying a spare – they’re generally quite easy to change.’

How can I avoid using E10 petrol?

Supplies of E5 petrol will be maintained at forecourts, but only in the form of super unleaded, which is far more expensive than conventional, lower-octane, petrol.

It is currently priced at 144.5p-a-litre compared to 134.8p for standard petrol. 

To fill a 55-litre fuel tank, you’re looking at paying an extra £5.60 each time.

And the DfT has suggested that E5 fuel might only be available for five years – potentially removed from pumps in September 2026. 

After this date, the regulation will be reviewed to decide whether E5 should be retained or if it will fall on owners to turn to specially-created fuel additives for their older machines. 

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