Plan Insurance Blog

E5 is Dead, Long Live E10 Petrol

The green times are well and truly upon us. Though owners of classic cars are likely to enter a period of mourning.

Since the 1st of September, the standard grade of petrol in Great Britain has become E10. This means it has up to 10 per cent bio ethanol content). Before this, regular unleaded was E5 – though E10 has been on sale for a while. The plan is for Super Unleaded petrol to remain as E5 while it is quietly phased out.

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What Is E10 Petrol?

E10 is a mix of regular petrol and ethanol made from materials including low grade grains, sugars and waste wood. It will cut yearly CO2 emissions produced on UK roads by cars and commercial vehicles by as much as 750,000 tonnes.

Will E10 Petrol Save the Planet?

Switching to E10 has the equivalent benefit of taking 350,000 cars a year off the road. That’s all the cars in North Yorkshire. So it will have a pretty significant benefit.

It goes some way to help the UK reach the goal of net zero carbon by 2050. The launch of E10 also boosts the UK’s biofuel industry, as the materials needed for E10 will be produced in Britain.

Burning plant-derived ethanol does sound pretty green. Plants absorb CO2, engines burn the bio ethanol that is processed from them and CO2 is released back into the atmosphere.

Though many believe that positive promotion of this cycle is misleading. Since crops need to be grown, tended, harvested, dried, fermented, distilled and burned. This requires resources like land, energy and plenty of water.

Can Older Cars Use E10 Petrol?

Cars produced after 2011 will be compatible without modifications, but the DfT has previously estimated that 700,000 vehicles in the UK are not.

A spokesperson from UKPIA (UK Petroleum Industry Association) said : “If an owner of a classic or cherished car is uncertain of their vehicle’s compatibility with petrol containing more than 5 per cent ethanol and is unable to obtain guidance from the vehicle manufacturer, they can avoid potential difficulties by using the super grade”.

This advice is easily given, but super unleaded is significantly more expensive.

A Death Sentence For Classic Cars?

With an abrupt shift to E10, I wonder how long E5 will be around for and what effect this will have on the survival of classic cars.

1,800 forecourts will only sell the E10 petrol even though drivers of about 600,000 older and classic cars have been told not to use it. The switch, which is expected to take until the end of this month to complete, could leave drivers unable to fill up their cars, particularly in the countryside.

Industry group Ethanol Europe, said yesterday that E10 caused no damage to older vehicles, pointing out that it is the only form of petrol used in the US and most of Europe. However, British classic car drivers owners are reluctant to take the chance of killing their pride and joy.

The Petrol Retailers Association says that between 500 and 1,000 of its members would not supply E5. BP, Shell and Sainsbury’s said that the majority of their outlets would sell both E5 and E10 for the foreseeable. This suggests that as many as 1,800 out of 8,300 petrol stations will not sell the petrol used by older vehicles.

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