Government consults on E10 at the pump

Published:  05 March, 2020

Petrol with a higher bioethanol content could be sold in the UK from next year. The government is consulting on whether E10, which has 10% bioethanol content, should become the new standard grade of petrol. The E5 grade, containing 5% bioethanol, has a higher carbon content. The Department for Transport says the move could reduce transport CO2 emissions by 750,000 per year.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The next 15 years will be absolutely crucial for slashing emissions from our roads, as we all start to feel the benefits of the transition to a zero-emission future. Before electric cars become the norm, we want to take advantage of reduced CO2 emissions today. This small switch to petrol containing bioethanol at 10% will help drivers across country reduce the environmental impact of every journey. Overall this could equate to about 350,000 cars being taken off our roads entirely.

The E10 blend is already common other countries including Belgium, Finland, France and Germany.

The PRA welcomed the government opening a consultation on the issue, as PRA Chairman Brian Madderson observed: “The introduction of this standard is a good step in reducing CO2 emission from petrol vehicles. The fuel is also easy to introduce smoothly, as E5 ‘premium’ tanks at filling stations can have E10 petrol put into them without any changes aside from relabelling. An orderly mandated introduction by the government, backed by a consumer education plan is the best way to successfully introduce this.”

Commenting on the technical implications that garages could face, Dan Morgan, Director, Sales and Operations at Lucas Oil Products UK said: “European and Asian car manufacturers have already dealt with this issue in the US, where, for the last six years, up to 10% ethanol has been the standard.

“There are specific implications for older cars, but precisely how the potential for change will affect UK motorists driving more recent models in the UK depends a lot on how the car making operations in Europe have been prepared for this change – how they have prepared their UK offerings to meet the challenge.

“Most likely concerns relate to oil contamination, fuel economy, fuel hose and seal damage in older vehicles, and corrosion related to increased water in the fuel system. Ethanol is hydroscopic, meaning that it pulls water from the air and, therefore, there is potential for corrosion of metal part inside exhausts, the engine itself and throughout the fuel system. Oil contamination may be a potential issue, too. Ethanol has a corrosive influence on the inside of rubber fuel hoses. Many older vehicles are at risk.”

Dan added: “UK drivers may see a small decrease in fuel economy, which is probably not noticeable at 5%, but may be at 10%. There is simply less heat energy in the same volume of ethanol than there is in petrol. Minor adjustments in driving habits, such as consolidating short trips into single longer trips when practical might be advisable for drivers. More frequent oil changes may be required.”

The consultation announcement follows the announcement in February of a revised 2035 cut-off for the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles, which Grant Shapps then subsequently said could be rolled forward to 2032.

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