What is E10 fuel and how could it affect you?

We’re going to see big changes at the petrol pumps this year, as new eco-friendly fuel E10 is being introduced in the UK. See what it is, why it’s happening and how it could affect you and your car.

We’re going to see big changes at the petrol pumps this year, as new eco-friendly fuel E10 is being introduced in the UK. See what it is, why it’s happening and how it could affect you and your car.

Daniel Hutson
From the Motor team
7
minute read
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Posted 15 JULY 2021

E10 fuel explained

E10 is a blend of petrol and ethanol. It’s designed to help cut emissions from transport that contributes to global warming. 

The two standard petrol blends, E5 and Super – which you can currently find at the pumps – contain no more than 5% ethanol mixed with the petrol. The new E10 fuel increases this proportion to 10%, with the renewable ethanol made from materials including low-grade grains, sugars and waste wood. 

Using bioethanol in place of traditional petrol can reduce CO2 emissions, so increasing the ethanol content of petrol could help the UK government meet our climate-change targets of net zero by 2050.

Did you know…?

The government says the introduction of E10 on UK roads “could cut transport carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road, or all the cars in North Yorkshire”.

Is my car compatible with E10 petrol?

E10 petrol is compatible with almost all (95%) petrol-powered vehicles on the road today, including all cars and motorbikes built since 2011.

Vehicles that may not be compatible with E10 fuel include:

  • classic and older vehicles
  • some specific models, particularly those from the early 2000s
  • some mopeds, particularly those with an engine size of 50cc or under

If your car, bike or van was manufactured from 2019 onwards you should be able to see an ‘E10’ and ‘E5’ label near the filler cap showing the fuel(s) they can use.

If your vehicle is older, use the UK government’s E10 compatibility checker, which covers cars, motorbikes and mopeds, to see if you can safely use E10. And if there’s any doubt, follow your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations on which fuel to use.

Where can I buy E10 fuel?

E10 fuel will be available at almost all petrol stations across the UK. Petrol stations that currently offer two grades of petrol will stock both E10 (‘Premium’) and E5 (‘Super’) petrol.

E10 is becoming the UK’s standard petrol grade, meaning almost all filling stations’ standard 95-octane (‘Premium’) petrol grade will be blended with up to 10% renewable ethanol.

E5 (higher-octane petrol with no more than 5% renewable ethanol), will remain available at filling stations that sell two grades of petrol.

Some rural, remote or very small filling stations, like those on the Scottish Islands, may sell only E5 petrol as standard.

When it comes to the pumps, a circular ‘E10’ or ‘E5’ label will be clearly shown on both the pump and the nozzle, making it easy for you to identify the fuel you need.

What petrol can I get if my vehicle’s not compatible with E10?

If your vehicle or equipment isn’t compatible with E10 fuel, you’ll still be able to use E5 by getting the ‘Super’ grade petrol from most filling stations.

Did you know?

In 1908, Henry Ford designed his Model T – one of the very first cars – to run on a mixture of gasoline and ethanol. Ford called this mixture ‘the fuel of the future’.

What difference will E10 fuel make to car performance?

Switching to E10 could reduce the CO2 emissions from your petrol vehicle by around 2%, on top of the 2% savings you currently get from using E5.

But, on the downside, ethanol is around 33% less fuel-efficient than petrol . According to the US Energy Information Administration, vehicle fuel economy may decrease by about 3% when using E10, relative to petrol that doesn’t contain fuel ethanol.

At this kind of level, driving style and driving conditions could have a higher impact than the change in fuel. Sticking to the speed limits and braking in time, avoiding using the air con and regularly maintaining your car will help maximise fuel efficiency.

Does E10 damage your car?

Car manufacturers have known about the plans to introduce E10 fuel for a considerable time so, since 2011, all new cars have had to be E10 compatible. But drivers of older vehicles may need to take measures to prevent E10 unleaded causing damage to their cars. 

Bioethanol can be more corrosive than petrol, so seals, hoses, plastics and metals – particularly alloys – may need to be replaced more often.

Ethanol is also hygroscopic, meaning that it absorbs and even draws in water from the atmosphere. This could potentially lead to condensation in fuel tanks. Plus, fuel lines and carburettors that were never meant to come into contact with water can now be exposed to it, resulting in corrosion or rust to components.

My car is diesel. Will E10 make any difference to me?

No, nothing changes for diesel. The change in fuel applies only to petrol vehicles.

What happens if I put in the wrong fuel by mistake?

If you’ve filled up with E10 and you should have used E5, you may experience some pre-detonation (the engine noise could sound like ‘pinking’), possibly combined with a little rough running and poor cold starting. But it shouldn't be a huge problem for you – just top up with the right fuel as soon as possible.

If your vehicle is compatible with E10 petrol, it’s perfectly safe to mix E5 and E10 in the same tank, or fill up with E5 if E10 isn’t available.

If you’ve put diesel in a petrol car or vice versa, you’ve got a problem. Putting petrol in a diesel car can potentially cause serious and expensive damage to the engine. See more in our guide to misfuelling.

Will E10 fuel be more expensive than petrol?

Not necessarily. One government impact assessment on its introduction said that E10 might be up to 0.2p a litre cheaper. But bioethanol production is having to be ramped up and the current price of petrol wholesale is already reflecting this. So it may be that little changes in terms of pump prices. However, you may feel the impact on your wallet through the slightly lower fuel efficiency of E10.

Drivers of older cars registered before 2002 – of which there are an estimated 700,000 on the road – will need to switch to super unleaded. This will continue to use a 5% E5 mix, which costs around 10-14p a litre more than standard fuel – although obviously this can vary from filling station to filling station. So a full tank could set you back an extra £7.50 or so every time you fill up.

Some vehicles registered between 2002 and 2012 will also need to stick to super unleaded, but you’ll need to check if this applies to you.

Frequently asked questions

I own a classic car. Can I use E10 petrol?

No, it’s not advisable and could cause damage to your vehicle. What’s more, there are suggestions that the Department for Transport may potentially remove E5 petrol from pumps in September 2026 – although this is not finalised. So it may be that after this date you’ll have to find specially created fuel additives to keep your classic car on the road in a similar way to what happened when unleaded petrol was introduced.

If you have a fibreglass petrol tank, you may have to install an aluminium one, and you may have to upgrade fuel lines. Check your carburettor to see if it could have problems.

Can I use E10 in my petrol-powered garden tools?

If you’ve got petrol-driven two-stroke equipment or garden machinery like lawnmowers, chainsaws, shredders and aerators, you’ll need to check with the manufacturer or dealer before switching to E10 if the manual doesn’t give instructions. 

Jet-ski and boat-owners will also need to check too.

Will E10 fuel help reduce air pollution?

E10 fuel will help reduce the kinds of emissions that impact climate change, like CO2. But it won’t make a difference to emissions that are a concern for air quality and public health, including particulates, nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons. This means that the introduction of E10 petrol is unlikely to have any positive impact on air quality.

Will E10 petrol make any difference to whether I can drive into low emission zone?

No, it won’t change the status of your car if you want to drive in a clean air zone (CAZ), low emission zone (LEZ) or ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ).

Vehicles are rated on their Euro emissions standard, not the fuel they use.

I’m putting my vehicle in storage. Should I empty the tank of E10 fuel?

Neither petrol nor E10 much like being stored. Water can separate out and evaporation can mean that the fuel in your tank becomes denser. if you’re concerned, it might be an idea to use ‘Super’ unleaded, with less than 5% ethanol, for your last tankful before putting your vehicle away.

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