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E10 Petrol: Your Questions About The New Fuel Answered

Since September 2021, the standard grade of petrol on filling-station forecourts across the UK has changed, from the old ‘E5’ fuel to a new ‘E10’ product. But what is E10 petrol, and what are the pros and cons of the new fuel-type? Here, we answer all the main questions about E10 petrol.

What Is E10 Fuel?

Standard unleaded petrol, which is the cheapest type of petrol sold in the UK and has an octane rating of ‘95’, has until recently been made of 95% petrol (from crude oil) and then 5% bioethanol. Bioethanol is an alcohol-based fuel which is produced from plants and crops, which makes it a more ‘carbon-neutral’ fuel than petrol refined from crude oil. As you can see, with 5% of 95-octane unleaded being made of bioethanol, this type of petrol was known as ‘E5’.

However, from September 2021, legislation means the standard 95-octane petrol’s bioethanol content has been doubled, meaning the fuel-type is now made of 10% bioethanol and 90% regular unleaded. The idea is that this will reduce carbon emissions among the existing fleet of petrol-powered cars on the UK’s roads, ahead of 2030 – when the sale of new internal-combustion-engine-only cars will cease in this country.

What Sort Of Reduction In CO2 Are We Talking About?

The estimates suggest the switch from E5 to E10 petrol will cut CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes annually, which is the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road every year.

Does This Affect Diesel-Powered Cars?

Not in the slightest. The switch from E5 to E10 only affects standard 95-octane unleaded petrol, so drivers of vehicles which run on diesel do not need to worry about the change.

Can E10 Fuel Be Used In All Petrol-Powered Cars?

No, and this is where there are slight issues with the change in UK petrol. E5 fuel could be used by pretty much any petrol car, without the need for modifications or fuel additives, but E10 fuel is not compatible with every petrol vehicle. In short, the higher bioethanol content means that older cars’ engines could be damaged by repeated use of E10 fuel, with as many as 600,000 vehicles on the roads that are potentially not compatible with the new petrol.

But let’s start with the good news: if your car was built in 2011 or after, it will be fine to run on E10 fuel long-term with no problems. All petrol vehicles have had to be compatible with E10 since that date, so it’s even more of a reason to lease a new car from Vanarama because you know a shiny-fresh motor will be safe when filled with the E10 fuel.

In theory, there are plenty of cars from the late 1990s which can also run on E10, but there are some model-specific exceptions to the blanket rule here that mean in general, drivers of cars registered prior to 2002 are advised not to run their cars on E10 without first checking if they’re compatible or not. Between 2002 and 2011, it is also still sensible to check if your car is OK on the new petrol-type.

That’s Fine, But Is There Somewhere I Can Easily Check If My Car Is Compatible?

Yes, the Government’s website [www.gov.uk] has an official E10 online compatibility checker [https://www.gov.uk/check-vehicle-e10-petrol]. It’s completely free and very quick to use, and all you need, at a minimum, to find out if your car is OK with E10 is the vehicle’s manufacturer name (e.g., Honda). For certain makes of car, all models will be E10-compatible so you’ll only need that one detail to get your answer, but you might also need to provide the vehicle model, engine size and year it was manufactured to get an exact picture of E10 compatibility (e.g., some models of Vauxhall are not compatible, specifically those using a 2.2-litre direct-injection engine known as the Z22YH – so Vectra, Signum and Zafira cars).

What If My Car Is Not Compatible With E10 And I Can’t Afford To Change It?

You’re not totally stuck, as you can still fill the vehicle on higher grades of petrol – typically known as ‘super unleaded’. These have octane ratings of 97-99, usually, and they continue to be sold at an E5 mix. The drawback here is that super unleaded fuels are normally notably more expensive per litre than standard unleaded. 

Are There Any Drawbacks To Using E10 Fuel In A Compatible Petrol Vehicle?

The only known drawback is a marginal reduction in fuel economy, typically around 1%. This means, for example, that a petrol car capable of 50mpg on E5 unleaded would dip to around 49.5mpg on E10 unleaded. But that’s the sort of drop you’ll never notice in normal driving, and things like aggressive acceleration and braking, under-inflated tyres, empty roof racks and needless excess weight in the vehicle (e.g., unnecessary junk in the boot) will have far more of an effect on your fuel economy than the switch from E5 to E10 petrol ever will. 

What Happens If I Accidentally Put E10 Fuel Into A Non-Compatible Car?

Nothing, provided you don’t do it regularly. It will be continuous and repeated use of E10 fuel which will damage an older, non-compatible engine. The advice if you have filled up with E10 fuel in a non-compatible car is simply to drive it as normal for a while to use up some of the fuel in the tank, then fill up with E5 fuel (super unleaded) as soon as possible. And don’t do it again!

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