New E10 petrol on sale in 2021. Will it be a problem for your car?

e10 petrol
E10 is already sold alongside super unleaded in fuel stations on the continent (Picture iStock/Dutchphotography)

Hundreds of thousands of drivers could be hit by the introduction of new petrol in the UK next year. The fuel, called E10, will become the forecourt standard petrol throughout the UK from 2021. However, it may not be suitable for older cars. Read on to find out if you’re going to be affected.

What is E10?

Currently regular petrol contains 95 per cent unleaded petrol and 5 per cent bioethanol. It’s called E5 and can be run in most cars without engine modification. The new E10 petrol has 10 per cent bioethanol in it.

What is the problem with E10?

E10 is a slightly different fuel make-up to the E5 that’s currently on sale. In older engines it may cause pre-detonation otherwise known as pinking or knocking. This is when the fuel air mix doesn’t explode in the cylinder exactly when it should. Putting E10 in a non-compatible car may also make the car difficult to start.

e10 petrol
Modern cars (2011 onwards) are adapted to accept E10 without any trouble (Picture iStock/DeepBlue4You)

Will it harm your car?

If you use E10 in a non-compatible car over a long period of time, it may well cause lasting damage to the engine. Bioethanol has corrosive properties and Department for Transport (DfT) research suggests it can damage hoses, seals and plastics in engines that aren’t compatible. It may also harm fuel pumps and carburettors.

But that is over a long period. Just filling up once with E10 should be fine although the engine may be slightly harder to start and run a bit rougher. Experts say the driver should add regular E5 petrol as soon as the tank has emptied.

Which cars aren’t affected?

All petrol cars sold since 2016 must have engines that are optimised for using E10 petrol. If your car is registered from 2016 (16/66-reg) onwards, you don’t have to worry. All petrol cars registered in 2011 (11/61-reg) and beyond should be compatible too but drivers should check with the manufacturer.

Which cars will be affected?

There are currently around 700,000 vehicles on the road in the UK that won’t be suited to using E10. That’s around 3 per cent. The DfT says around half of these are classic or cherished vehicles that are expected to be kept on the road indefinitely. It believes the other half will be scrapped before 2026.

For cars made before 2011, the DfT advises owners check with the vehicle manufacturer to be sure. It says: “It is not straightforward to set out which vehicles produced prior to 2011 are approved for E10 use, as there are no clear cut-off dates for determining compatibility. Compatibility needs to be confirmed by manufacturers for each model.”

Some big selling cars such as petrol Volkswagen Golf FSIs, Nissan Micras and some 2.2-litre Vauxhall Zafiras, Signums and Vectras are among the vehicles that may be affected. These are models sold with first generation direct injection petrol engines. Confusingly it means a VW Golf made in 2007 (07/57-reg) may not be compatible for E10 while one built in 2005 (05/55-reg) would be.

e10 petrol
Volkswagen Golfs with the first generation FSI engine aren’t compatible with E10 petrol (Picture Volkswagen)

When will the change take place?

The switch from E5 to E10 fuel will occur in 2021. The DfT estimates that by then, only 2 per cent of cars on the road won’t be compatible with the fuel.

What happens if you drive a classic car?

The DfT is proposing that regular unleaded petrol should be E10, meanwhile it is suggesting super unleaded remains E5. It adds: “This means petrol with a lower ethanol content would still be widely available after E10 is introduced.” The result is owners of classic cars will have to spend more fuelling their vehicles.

What is bioethanol?

Bioethanol is a colourless, volatile, flammable liquid, produced by the natural fermentation of sugars. It is the primary ingredient in alcohol. Unlike petrol, when it burns it doesn’t produce greenhouse gases. The bioethanol would be produced from crops grown in the UK and added to the petrol at refineries.

Why is the government switching to E10?

The government claims the move to E10 would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by around 2 per cent compared to E5. The result would be a cut in overall transport CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year. That, the DfT says, is the equivalent to taking around 350,000 cars off the road.

3 comments on “New E10 petrol on sale in 2021. Will it be a problem for your car?

  1. Eric Hayman 14/07/2020 9:38 AM

    Yet the government refuses to tackle the main reason for increased pollution: couples having so many children, and uncontrolled illegal entry into the UK. How do these quantifiable problems compare with a claimed cut of TWO PER CENT in CO2 emissions. I have a 2007 VW Fox (5,000 miles a year at the most, almost zero since April) – am I being told to scrap it and spend my limited savings on a NEW car? How about the pollution created in making all these new cars? Try setting that off against the claimed 750,000 tonnes reduction of CO2 per annum. Big deal that I will still be able to get super unleaded. Great news for Shell and Esso!
    After its handling of CV19, another government masterstroke!

    • trevorjmallett 14/07/2020 10:23 AM

      I agree why doesn’t the government tackle the real issues, as you say over population of this country.

  2. Anthony Sergeant 14/07/2020 7:15 PM

    More rubbish from the government. They just cant help themselves spitting out this kind of rubbish.

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