On the 1st of September 2021, E10 fuel became the standard petrol grade in the UK. This move away from E5 petrol slowly took shape over the summer of 2021, but what exactly is E10 ethanol biofuel, and what do you need to know about it?
The old standard for petrol is E5 fuel, which is made up of 5% bioethanol. The new grade, E10, is made up of 10% bioethanol. Bioethanol is another name for ethanol, a renewable energy source made by fermenting plant-based products.
Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change. E10 fuel is being used to combat this and reduce the overall level of C02 emissions. Through blending ethanol and petrol, fewer fossil fuels are needed to be burnt by vehicles, which will benefit the environment.
While the greener angle of this fuel mix will be greatly appreciated across the world, it is not without drawbacks – specifically for potentially up to 600,000 vehicles in the UK that are not compatible with this new fuel. This has not gone down well with the owners of vehicles that have an E10 fuel compatibility issue. Despite the environmental benefits, there is potentially an extra cost for people without a compatible vehicle.
In our article, you will get all the information on E10 that you need. We’ll dive into E10 fuel compatibility, pricing, the chemical properties of ethanol biofuel, and more. Let’s begin!
What is Fuel?
Fuel is a substance that when combined with oxygen, results in the process called combustion, which produces heat. This heat is then typically converted to other forms of energy, with the end goal of producing electricity and/or movement. Fuel is also used in the operation of your car’s air conditioning.
Fuel is mostly split into five main types;
- Solid fuels
- Liquid fuels
- Fuel gas
- Fossil fuels
Whilst all are combustible, their differing physical characteristics make each type more suited to specific purposes than others. When it comes to cars, the main types (for now) are liquid fuels, namely petrol and diesel.
The combustion of fuel inside a vehicle powers the internal combustion engine. This, in turn, is used to drive pistons, which turn the drive shaft, and thus, in tandem with the vehicle’s gearbox, make the vehicle move. When fuel is injected into either the intake manifold or the combustion chamber, it is combined with oxygen. The oxygen-fuel mixture is ignited by the spark from a spark plug.
Internal combustion engines have been around for over a century. The first internal combustion engine was put into a commercially viable car in 1886 by Karl Benz. It was a three-wheeled, small car but it was a landmark moment.
What is petrol?
Petrol is a fuel that has commonly powered vehicles and machines since the early 20th century. It is obtained from a fractional distillation process and has a translucent liquid form. From lawnmowers to lorries and cars, everyday vehicles rely on petrol to work.
The history of petrol as a transportation fuel for humans started in 1858. The first versions of combustion engines can be traced back to the 19th century. Inventors such as the Italian Felice Matteucci are credited with designing the first combustion engines in 1853. In many ways, this also gave birth to the concept of car servicing, and the need for vehicle health checks! It took over three more decades before petrol-powered cars were sold commercially by Karl Benz in 1886.
How is it made?
Petrol is made from processed crude oil. It evaporates easily, is very flammable and can form explosive mixtures in the air. It is a combination of numerous different chemicals referred to as hydrocarbons. These hydrocarbons are a mix of chemicals called alkanes, cycloalkanes, and aromatic hydrocarbons. A typical petrol mixture contains about 150 different hydrocarbons, including butane, pentane, isopentane and the BTEX compounds (benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylenes). This mix of highly volatile chemical substances is very energy-dense and ready to use, making it an ideal fuel source. In addition to this, hydrocarbons lend themselves well to the manufacture of polymers, which are used in the construction of car headlights, car tyres, and bunded oil tanks.
Additives such as ethanol are sometimes mixed with petrol for passenger vehicles. By mixing bioethanol (a near-carbon neutral fuel source) with conventional petrol, less carbon dioxide is produced in the manufacturing of a car’s fuel. Usually, ethanol also burns more cleanly than petrol, which reduces the amount of other harmful emissions. These facts together make E10 ethanol biofuel’s environmental impact less than that of E5 or normal petrol. The mixture of these chemicals make petrol somewhat safer for the atmosphere due to the ethanol being able to reduce the amount of CO2 emissions from vehicles, and this is why stations worldwide are switching to E10 petrol. The overall benefits of this petrol, and how it helps to tackle climate change, are a huge step forward in reducing carbon emissions.
What is E10 fuel?
E10 fuel is a fuel that contains up to 10% renewable ethanol. The rest of the makeup of E10 fuel, however, is regular unleaded petrol. This is something that, in the long run, will help with climate change and reduce carbon emissions. The reason it can reduce carbon emissions is that the mixture of ethanol and fuel means fewer fossil fuels are needed, which creates less carbon dioxide emissions. Overall, it will help with climate change. E10 fuel is already being used widely across Europe, in countries such as Finland, Germany and Belgium. It is also being used in the USA and Australia.
With carbon dioxide being one of the main contributors to climate change, E10 fuel has been introduced to fight this and reduce the carbon emissions of nations across the globe. The introduction of E10 fuel could hopefully cut carbon emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year. This is like taking half a million cars off the road. Couple this with the rise of electric and hybrid vehicles, and the impacts on climate change could be drastic.
What is Ethanol?
Ethanol is an organic, colourless chemical compound. It has various other names, including; ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol or just plain alcohol.
Ethanol is a vital industrial chemical; it is used as a solvent and is also added to gasoline for vehicles. Additionally, ethanol is a byproduct of fermentation, and as such is formed at vineyards and breweries across the globe. It is also found in daily items such as hand sanitisers, toiletries and disinfectants.
When it comes to the fuel side of ethanol, it is a renewable fuel that is collected from various plant materials known as ‘biomass’. Nearly all fuel in Europe now uses 10% ethanol in its fuel, which we know as E10 fuel.
Ethanol biofuel is more carbon-neutral than fossil fuels. Ethanol is also called grain alcohol, and this is because it is usually made from the distillation of grain crops like corn or soybeans. Any plant material, or biomass (which can be used to fuel environmentally-friendly biomass boilers), can be used to create ethanol. When ethanol is mixed with petrol it becomes ethanol biofuel. It creates fewer carbon emissions than fossil fuels do when being burnt, so is a lot safer for the environment.
Despite both E5 and E10 fuel being ethanol biofuel varieties, they are not without their differences.
So what is the difference between E5 and E10 Fuel?
The difference between E5 and E10 fuel is quite simple. The percentage of bioethanol within the fuel is different. E5 has 5% bioethanol, and E10 has 10% bioethanol. The reason for the government wanting to switch to 10% bioethanol is because E10 fuel will help to reduce transport-related CO2 emissions.
When it comes to the pricing of E10 petrol compared to E5, there shouldn’t be too much of a difference. E10 fuel is better for the environment and the economy than E5 is, but fortunately, it doesn’t cost more to use.
For the most part, in the UK, E10 will not be offered alongside E5. Once a petrol station has switched to E10 fuel, the standard E5 will usually no longer be available at that pump. This is so the gradual change happens smoothly, without people getting confused by what petrol they should use. E5 will remain at some fuel stations, but only at a more expensive, premium cost.
E10 Fuel compatibility
E10 fuel doesn’t work in all cars. Roughly 600,000 cars on the road in 2021 will suffer from an E10 fuel compatibility issue. This is because most vehicles designed before 2010, and all vehicles before 2000, were not designed to operate such high contents of ethanol fuel.
Many car owners are now wondering what cars are compatible with the new fuel. In short, if your car was built after 2011, then it is okay from an E10 fuel compatibility perspective. Most cars built between 2000 and 2010 will also be compatible with E10, however, some models will not. This includes some models from car manufacturers such as Ford, Volkswagen and Toyota.
In his initial E10 press release, AA Technical specialist, Greg Carter said, “Over 95% of petrol cars in the UK can run perfectly well on E10, but some older models, classic cars and motorcycles shouldn’t use it.”
If you are worried about whether your car will be able to run on E10 petrol, then fear not. The government has created an E10 petrol compatibility checker which will answer all your questions.
If your car has an E10 fuel compatibility issue, then as previously stated, some stations will still be selling E5 ethanol biofuel, just at a pricier rate. The Department For Transport has said they will protect the sale of E5 for at least five more years.
What should I do if I put E10 fuel in an incompatible car?
If you accidentally put E10 fuel in an incompatible car, know that it will not cause immediate damage. However, over time, if you continue to use E10 when your vehicle cannot handle it, small problems with your car could develop. Examples of this would be a little rough running and some poor cold starting, but overall, nothing too serious should happen to your car.
The best way to prevent further damage if you accidentally use E10 in an incompatible car is to stop using it straight away and top up with the required fuel. Alternatively, you can contact your car dealer, the vehicle manufacturer or roadside assistance to help your engine before any of these problems kick in.
When does E10 petrol start?
E10 petrol has already been rolled out over the summer in European countries such as Finland, Germany, and Belgium. In the UK however, it officially started on the 1st of September 2021.
With the move over to E10 fuel, many people with cars are panicking for information about what this means, and want to know if there will be big changes. Overall the answer to that question is no. There will not be huge changes.
Over the summer, stations have been slowly releasing information about the change to E10 fuel and how it compares to the standard E5 petrol. In Ireland, the rollout of E10 fuel will not be until the summer of 2022.
How much will E10 fuel cost?
Overall, the initial price of E10 will be the same as where E5 left off. The price of E5 ethanol biofuel will now, however, go up in price. If you own a car that isn’t E10 compatible, you could be paying up to 12p per litre more.
Despite the prices of petrol slowly rising over time, the UK doesn’t have the most expensive petrol in Europe. A handful of countries around Europe face up to £1.60 per litre for standard fuel, making the UK price reasonable in contrast.
E10 is a change in fuel, but luckily for the drivers around the UK, the price of petrol will not be changing any more than how it fluctuates daily.
Is E10 bad?
This question depends on who you ask. The government is introducing this new E10 fuel as a means to meet its emission targets. But a problem facing some drivers is, if their cars cannot operate with E10 fuel, then they might struggle with the prices of E5 fuel.
With cars built after 2010 being able to sustain the switch to E10 fuel, classic cars are getting left in the dust. RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said, in a recent article regarding the September switch to E10 fuel, “With the price of petrol at its highest for eight years, those drivers who have no choice but to use super unleaded E5 petrol will be paying through the nose, as it’s averaging around 147p a litre – that’s 12p more expensive than the current UK average for standard unleaded.”
Williams added, “This will quickly mount up for anyone who has to drive a lot of miles to get to work every week. It’s also probably the case that many of those driving older cars will already be from lower-income backgrounds, so they will end up being even worse off.”
He goes on to say, “And those with E10 compatible cars will, unfortunately, find they are getting fewer miles to the gallon as the fuel is less efficient than E5 petrol, due to it containing 5% more ethanol.”
With most classic cars being built pre-2010, owners may find themselves paying a premium for E5 petrol. This, to some people, could shine E10 fuel in a negative light.
Again, this question depends on who you ask. There are positives and negatives to E10 fuel.
What are the benefits of E10 fuel?
One of the benefits of E10 fuel compared to E5 petrol is how it will help to tackle climate change. It is safer for the environment, and in the long run, will help clear the air of car-related emissions.
Removing 10% of the petrol from the fuel bought at the pump is estimated to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the longer term. This means that C02 emissions will go down dramatically, which is a huge positive for this planet. With other countries in Europe already using E10 fuel, we are now beginning to follow in their footsteps and will be tackling climate change better than before.
A small benefit for people with cars that have E10 fuel compatibility is that there won’t be any extra money coming out of their pockets.
Where can I buy E10 fuel?
E10 fuel has now become the standard fuel in all of England, so it has automatically become available in all petrol stations nationwide. This means it is easily accessible for all drivers. E5 petrol will become increasingly difficult to get.
Premium E5 fuel will still be available in various locations, but overall, E10 is the main offering, so don’t worry when it comes to wondering where to buy it. Every station in the UK will be selling it at a standard price.
So now you Know
E10 fuel is now the standard petrol in our country. With this type of ethanol biofuel being better for the environment, the benefits outweigh the negatives. More and more cars becoming compatible with the E10 fuel, so it is best to remain informed. E10 is here to stay.
If you have any doubts about E10 fuel compatibility, and what it means for you and your vehicle, don’t hesitate to get in touch with the seasoned technicians at All Trans Autos. We love to talk about all things automotive and would delight in helping you to understand how ethanol biofuel is paving the way to a greener future.