Are all petrol-powered vehicles able to run on E10?
Unfortunately not. It is estimated that between 600,000 and 700,000 older petrol vehicles on our roads in 2021 are not compatible with E10. There are more than one million classic vehicles on the road in the UK with half of them being cars, records from 2016 suggest.
However, E10 could also be destructive to vehicles built in the past 20 years. The general rule of thumb is that any car registered before 2002 could be at risk if they use E10 petrol and should be checked for compatibility.
That said, only since 2011 has it been a rule for all new cars sold to be able to run on E10. If you have a vehicle older than that, it’s worth verifying if the greener fuel is recommended for your motor by using the Government’s E10 checker tool online or speaking to your vehicle’s manufacturer.
What damage could E10 petrol cause to non-compliant vehicles?
Filling an incompatible car with E10 can cause a variety of issues in older vehicles, experts have warned.
Simon Williams, fuel spokesman at the RAC said: ‘Owners of classic cars need to be particularly careful not to fill up with E10 and then leave it sitting in the tank for long periods, as this will likely lead to expensive damaged seals, plastics and metals.’
However, experts at the Historic and Classic Vehicles Alliance – a campaign group setup this year to lobby Government to protect classic cars – said many of the concerns about damage caused to older models has been blown out of proportion.
Malcolm McKay director at the HCVA, said: ‘It [E10] is a danger if you have deteriorating, incompatible components in your fuel system, but it isn’t the end of the world: Brazilian historic vehicles have been running on 25 per cent bioethanol since the 70s.’
If E10 petrol is greener, will it make my car more frugal?
In its impact assessment 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.’
The AA estimates that the Treasury would also see income from fuel duty – the tax on petrol and diesel – increase by £13m a month, or £156m per year. This will help the Government 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.
Will greener E10 petrol make my fuel bills less expensive?
If the switch from E5 to E10 does equates to a 1.6 per cent increase in UK petrol consumption, as MPs have estimated, drivers can expect their annual fuel bills to rise by around £30 a year (based on current fuel prices) due to the need to fill up more frequently than they have done when using E5.
The RAC warns that a drop in fuel economy is exacerbated in smaller-engined cars.
If my car isn’t compatible with E10, what should I fill up with?
Drivers of petrol-powered vehicles that are not able to run on E10 petrol will be forced to fill up with more expensive super grade unleaded, which will be kept at an E5 mix with five per cent bioethanol as the ‘default grade’ as a safety net for these car owners.
However, super unleaded – like BP’s Ultimate and Shell’s V Power – is far more expensive than conventional, lower-octane, petrol.
It is currently priced in the UK at an average of 147.5p a litre compared to 135.4p for standard petrol (based on current fuel prices at the time of publishing).
To fill a 55-litre fuel tank, you’re looking at paying an extra £6.66 each time you fill up a car that can’t run on E10. The typical motorist fills up 24 times a year, meaning annual bills are to rise by £160 for those with cars not compatible with E10.
What should I do if I accidentally pump E10 petrol into my non-compliant car?
While there have been some alarming warnings about the long-term damage E10 can cause to classic cars, breakdown providers have issued a more relaxed approach about what drivers should do if they accidentally fill up their non-compliant vehicle with the new greener unleaded.
The AA’s instruction is very clear: ‘Don’t panic!’ It adds: ‘Engines that aren’t compatible with the fuel will not sustain any damage from short-term use. Simply fill up with E5 (super) once there is room in the tank and continue to use the correct fuel on subsequent fill ups.
‘Unlike filling a petrol car with diesel (or vice-versa), there is no need to have the fuel drained.’