New Green Petrol Will Hit Motorists’ Pockets, Says Magazine

Filling up car with fuelWhat Car? magazine has raised concerns that a new type of ‘greener’ petrol due to be introduced into the UK this year could actually caused increased fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

The petrol, known as E10, is due to be introduced into the UK later this year as part of the Government’s commitment to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and conforming to the EU’s Renewable Energy Directive. This requires 10% of road transport energy to be from renewable sources by 2020.

Tested and found wanting

What Car? is the first UK organisation to undertake real-world tests using the new blend of petrol, which is made up of 10% bio-ethanol and 90% petrol. E5 (5% bio-ethanol) is currently the UK standard, but What Car? found that E10 was less efficient than the current E5 (up to 5% bio-ethanol) blend of fuel across every engine type tested. This means cars have to use more of the new fuel, costing drivers much more each year.

Editor-in-chief Chas Hallett is calling for the Government to carry out comprehensive, UK-focused testing in order to better understand the financial impact of the new petrol:

“The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the detrimental effect of E10 on fuel economy is between three and four percent, but even our small sample of tests proves otherwise.”

“To lead consumers into E10 without fully communicating the significant impact on fuel economy, particularly for drivers least able to absorb the extra costs, is irresponsible.”

What Car? tested E10 against E0 ‘pure’ petrol so the magazine could compare its results directly with those the US EPA’s. The cars used were a three-cylinder turbo (Dacia Sandero), a naturally aspirated car (Hyundai i30), a hybrid (Toyota Prius+) and a four-cylinder turbo (Mini Paceman).

The Sandero struggled the most, returning an 11.5% drop in economy. The 99bhp i30 was almost as bad, managing 9.8% less miles on E10.

It’s not just economy that is harmed by the use of E10 – CO2 tailpipe emissions also increased in every vehicle tested by What Car?, although the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership asserts that these increases would be partially offset by the renewable properties of bio-ethanol and the fact that the crops used to produce it absorb CO2 while growing.

Is there a choice?

E10 is widely used in the US and Brazil, and has already been adopted in some countries in Europe, so it’s unlikely to be a disaster. However, if you’d rather steer clear as long as possible, then you will be able to — the rules were amended last November to allow retailers to continue selling E5 for a further three years.

According to What Car?, E5 will be available in super unleaded format alongside E10 premium (standard) unleaded until January 2017 (click here for our guide to the different grades of petrol in the UK) Smaller retailers, however, may only offer one or the other. E10 pumps will be labelled accordingly, with a warning that it might not be compatible with all vehicles.

In reality, most modern petrol engines will be fine — What Car? reckons that most petrol cars built after 2002 will be fine, although there may be a few exceptions in models made up until 2009, such as first-generation direct-injection petrol cars, which are not compatible with E10.

If you’d like to know more, What Car? has put together a comprehensive online guide at www.whatcar.com/e10, and the magazine’s full report is included in the current edition of the magazine, on sale today (6 Feb 2014).

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