The liquid that comes out of your local petrol pump is changing.

From September this year, E10 petrol will be the default petrol at all fuel stations. This is a more eco-friendly type of petrol containing up to 10% ethanol, as opposed to the current 5% content.

Seeing the wood for the trees

The Department for Transport (DfT) announced the launch of E10 petrol following a consultation with motorists and the automotive industry.

E10 is a mixture of standard petrol and ethanol, which is made from materials including low grade grains, sugars and waste wood. It will cut CO2 emissions on UK roads by as much as 750,000 tonnes per year. This is the equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road.

As well as being part of the UK’s drive for net zero carbon by 2050, the launch will also boost the country’s biofuel industry. The Ethanol ingredients will be refined in the UK.

No problem?

Currently, E5 petrol is on sale at British fuel station forecourts, containing no more than 5% ethanol. However, doubling the ration of Ethanol could cause problems for some cars.

While all petrol cars built from 2011 onwards are E10 compatible, the DfT has estimated that around 700,000 vehicles in the UK are not. The official E10 compatibility checker can be found here.

The European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA) says most modern cars will run perfectly well on E10. However, some models, by some marks may experience issues. Nevertheless, E10 has been sold in Europe – most notably in France and Belgium – alongside E5 for a number of years.

Fuelling a greener future

The DfT has not yet set a deadline for when UK petrol stations will be required to offer E10. It will not be offered alongside E5 unleaded at the same forecourt, though – once a fuel station has switched to E10, standard E5 will no longer be available there. Motorists whose cars aren’t compatible with E10 will still be able to purchase E5 petrol via the ‘Super’ petrol pumps, the slightly higher cost petrol pump choice at present. This is because most of the cars that will struggle with the higher Ethanol content. are performance or classic cars.

Grant Shapps, secretary of state for transport, said: “Although more and more motorists are driving electric vehicles, there are steps we can take to reduce emissions from the millions of vehicles already on our roads. The small switch to E10 petrol will help drivers across the country reduce the environmental impact of every journey, as we build back greener.”

The Government’s own impact assessments predict the move is likely to result in a 1.6% overall increase in petrol prices.