E10 fuel change: What’s the difference between E5 and E10 fuel?

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E10 fuel is now the default for petrol stations across England, Scotland and Wales. If you haven’t checked your car is compatible with the new biofuel yet, now is the time, as if your car is one of the 600,000 that can’t use the new fuel, you could run into problems. But what is the difference between E5 and E10 fuel?

This week, on September 1, 2021, E10 fuel became the new regular unleaded at the pump in petrol stations across England, Scotland and Wales.

E10 will also be rolled out in Northern Ireland early next year.

The move to E10 – a biofuel – is part of the UK Government’s pledge to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Net-zero means achieving a balance between the amount of carbon emitted, and the carbon removed from the atmosphere.

The Department for Transport says 95 percent of UK cars can use E10 fuel.

This leaves 600,000 cars who will have to use E5 fuel, which is still available at the pump.

E10 is replacing the E5 fuel which was the petrol grade for the UK. But what is the real difference between the two fuels? And why are there some cars that can’t use E10?

What is E10 fuel?

E10 is a biofuel made from 90 percent regular unleaded and 10 percent ethanol.

As you might have guessed, that’s five percent higher ethanol content than the previous petrol grades in the UK: E5.

Ethanol is created by fermenting plants to create an alcohol-based fuel.

The idea is a fuel made from plants is closer to being carbon-neutral, as before the plants are fermented they naturally filter carbon from the air.

The Department for Transport says the switch to E10 in the UK will reduce carbon emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year. That is the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

Although E10 is new to the pump, it is widely used across Europe, the US and Australia. It has also been the reference fuel for testing new cars’ emissions and performance since 2016.

What is the difference between E10 and E5 fuel?

So, E10 has a five percent higher ethanol content than E5. That’s pretty much the difference between the two fuels.

If your car is E10 compliant, you can even mix E5 and E10 fuel.

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Some cars however are not E10 compliant, and will need to use E5 as using E10 could damage their engine.

Dan Powell, senior editor at Heycar, explained: “E10 petrol is already in use across much of Europe and most cars manufactured since 2011 should be compatible.

“That said, there will be a significant number of older cars in the UK that may be susceptible to problems.

“If your car was built before 2011 then you may discover that ethanol’s high solvency will affect the rubber seals and plastics used in the fuel system.

“Cold starting may also be affected, with ethanol impacting general combustion. Most problems can be avoided by using some ‘super fuels’ that will continue to be offered with the E5 ethanol mixture.”

Heycar has created an online checker, where you can check if your car is compatible with E10.

Express.co.uk also has a guide to the ten most-driven cars that are not compatible with E10, so if you haven’t checked yet, now is the time.

Is E10 more expensive?

E5 will still be available as a super grade fuel, which will also make it slightly more expensive than E10.

E10 will not increase the price for regular unleaded at the pump.

However, the fuel economy with E10 – the number of miles you can drive on a full tank of petrol – will be reduced slightly by one percent.

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