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E10 Biofuel – What is it?

E10 is a biofuel which is composed of around 10% ethanol mixed with 90% regular unleaded petrol (which itself may already have up to 5% ethanol). The reason ethanol is added is to absorb carbon dioxide and thus reduce harmful emissions. The biofuel is currently sold at petrol stations in countries like Germany and France and may well be rolled out to the UK soon.

Petrol PumpsShould it be introduced; the increased environmental benefits of biofuel will help the UK government meet its 2020 target of 10% of its transportation energy to be derived from renewable or alternative sources. This target is readily achievable given that French petrol sales are now reputedly 32% from E10, while in Finland, another widescale adopter, the figure is said to be over 60%!

However, the apparent benefits of E10 may not be as clear cut as they initially appear. The first drawback is that not all vehicles can use E10 without some modification. An estimated 92% of petrol engine new and used cars can currently use the fuel in the UK, with all vehicles manufactured after 2011 compliant. Guidelines suggest that cars manufactured prior to 2002 should not use the fuel as it can be corrosive and older vehicles may not have been designed to cope with the effects of this fuel. If in doubt, it’s advisable to refer directly to your vehicle’s manufacturer or specialists in the motor trade for guidance. This uncertainty initially led to resistance in other countries, especially Germany where a boycott was organised before E10 was rolled out widely.

E10 is also less fuel efficient in many vehicles, particularly ones with smaller engines, meaning that drivers may face a higher fuel bill and may also need to visit the petrol station more frequently – this is not ideal especially for those who do high mileage. It can also be harder for E10-using vehicles to start after sitting idle for a time – not ideal for demonstrating vehicles or those who can’t afford to sit around waiting for a fix!

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Of course, the benefits to the environment are marked, with over 5% less emissions resulting from the use of E10 compared to pure petrol. However, will drivers be swayed by this benefit if costs rise and economy decreases? There’s also no sign of any benefit to insurance policy premiums which is always a concern for motorists.

Overall, there are tangible and proven benefits to the use of E10 but its widescale implementation among UK drivers seems some way off. Heavy mileage drivers may well be sticking to tried and trusted diesel-engine cars for some time yet and until there’s a big push or some tangible benefit from the motor trade, habits are unlikely to change.