600,000 cars at risk of damage from new E10 petrol: how to check if your vehicle is vulnerable

Change to standard unleaded leaves owners facing higher prices at the pumps

Tuesday, 20th April 2021, 4:38 pm
Updated Friday, 23rd April 2021, 10:45 am
Drivers of older cars will have to pay more for their fuel

More than half a million car owners face higher fuel bills from later this year or risk damaging their vehicles as a new type of petrol becomes the country’s regular unleaded.

From September, virtually all the UK’s filling stations will be required to sell E10 petrol as their standard fuel after the Government confirmed the switch in an effort to cut CO2 emissions.

The fuel features a higher bioethanol mix than the current E5, which is sold as regular and premium unleaded around the country. While the new E10 fuel reduces vehicle CO2 emissions it also reduces fuel efficiency and is potentially damaging to the fuel systems and engines of many older models.

Drivers of older cars will have to pay more for their fuel

Its introduction as the regular 95 RON fuel leaves the owners of an estimated 600,000 cars facing higher fuel bills as E5 fuel will be sold only as the more expensive 98 RON super unleaded. While many affected cars are low-mileage classic models, the Department for Transport (DfT) estimates that around 350,000 are in daily use and some cars built up to 2010 are affected.

All cars built from 2011 onwards can safely use E10 petrol but some models built between 2000 and 2010 are vulnerable to damage, including vehicles from major brands such as Audi, Ford, Mercedes, Toyota and Volkswagen.

How do I know if my car is E10 compatible?

If your car was built in 2011 or later it is E10 compatible.

New cars feature a sticker confirming that they are E10 compatible

Most cars built since 2000 are also E10 compatible but if in doubt, you can check your car and engine using this list from the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).

What can I do if my car isn’t E10 compatible?

If your car isn’t E10 compatible you should continue to use E5 unleaded.

This will be sold as super unleaded (98 RON) at forecourts where two grades of petrol are currently sold. However, at filling stations with only one grade of petrol, this will become E10 except in remote areas.

The DfT has said it will protect supply of E5 fuel for at least five years.

What happens if I put E10 petrol into an incompatible car?

E10 fuel will not cause immediate damage to your car but prolonged use in an incompatible vehicle could cause long-term problems.

Because ethanol is a solvent, increasing its level in petrol can cause degradation of rubber and plastic components, such as hoses, seals, fuel lines and filters. It also absorbs water from the atmosphere, potentially leading to condensation and corrosion in metal fuel tanks, lines and other components.

Classic car insurance brand Hagerty has warned that the change could cause significant damage to the fuel system and engine of older cars, with the RAC advising that the fuel isn’t suitable for any car built before 2002.

The ACEA has also advised that if you misfuel a car with E10 you should contact your local vehicle dealer, the vehicle manufacturer or roadside assistance provider who may advise that the fuel tank be drained.

What is E10 petrol and why is it being introduced?

E10 petrol is unleaded petrol which contains up to 10 per cent bioethanol, taken from renewable sources such as sugar beet. Current regular unleaded - labelled as E5 - contains up to five per cent ethanol.

The Government says the introduction of E10 petrol will help reduce transport-related CO2 emissions. Fuels with higher bioethanol content produce less CO2 when burned and the DfT says that switching to E10 as standard will reduce a car’s CO2 emissions by around two per cent.

It estimates that changing to E10 will cut the UK’s CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year - equivalent to removing 350,000 cars from the road.

In theory, the introduction of E10 should not increase the price of regular unleaded at the pump as it is fractionally cheaper to produce. However, the DfT says that a car’s average fuel consumption will worsen by around 1.6 per cent as a result of moving from E5 to E10 petrol, meaning drivers will end up paying more to run their car.