Here’s how greener unleaded will affect your car

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The fuel you pump into your cars will be changing in a matter of months. Filling stations across the UK will be switching from E5 petrol to greener E10 unleaded that’s designed to cut vehicle emissions, but it will likely marginally increase fuel bills for owners of newer cars – and astronomically hike running costs for owners of older vehicles who will need to avoid using it.

That’s because models produced as recently as the early 2000s may not be compatible with the new fuel, due to its higher bioethanol mix that can damage components in older vehicles.

Ministers have told owners of these ageing cars – of which there are around 700,000 in the UK – they will need to switch to super-unleaded petrol to guarantee the health of their treasured classic and daily drives. However, this currently costs around 11p a litre more than standard petrol, which equates to around £7.50 extra each time you fill up at the forecourts.

What is E10 petrol and why is it being introduced?

Unleaded currently sold in the UK contains up to 5 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 cut transport carbon emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year – that’s equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road, or all the passenger vehicles registered in North Yorkshire.

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 new online checker tool at www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol.

My car is compatible. Will greener petrol cut my fuel bills?

Assessments of E10 petrol has already found that it might not only push pump prices higher but also be less efficient than E5.

Edmund King, president at the AA, highlighted a government report claiming the introduction of E10 ‘will add to fuel costs paid by motorists’. The study estimated that petrol would become around 0.2p-a-litre pricier due to the higher bioethanol mix, and also be less frugal. ‘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 study concluded.

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. 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 DfT 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 outlines 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 137.2p-a-litre compared to 126.2p for standard petrol, according to average UK fuel prices at the time of publication. To fill a 55-litre fuel tank, you’re looking at paying an extra £7.50 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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About Bazie 8428 Articles
I love anything to do with classic cars and vintage cars and I own a few classic cars. I regular attend classic car shows in my spare time.

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