E10 petrol at filling stations: What is it and can my car run on it?

Refueling car

E10 will become the default unleaded petrol on forecourts from September 1. - Credit: PA

The standard unleaded petrol in the UK is changing this week, affecting all drivers and posing a threat to thousands of drivers whose car will not be compatible. 

E10 - a more eco-friendly type of fuel - will be replacing E5 as the default unleaded petrol on filling station forecourts from September 1, with the aim of reducing CO2 emissions.

The fuel is a mixture of standard petrol and ethanol manufactured from plants, including sugar beet and wheat.

It is expected to cut emissions by as much as 750,000 tonnes per year. This is the equivalent to taking 350,000 cars - or all the cars in Norfolk - off the road.

Current petrol grades in the UK - known as E5 - contain up to five per cent ethanol, with the other 95pc being regular unleaded petrol.

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E10 will see the proportion of ethanol increased to 10pc bringing the UK in line with countries such as Belgium, Finland, France and Germany.

E10 petrol pump

E10 petrol will be available at all filling stations. - Credit: PA

Will E10 affect my car?

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Every petrol vehicle built after 2011 should accept E10. But it won't be compatible with some older vehicles - as many as 600,000 of those currently on UK roads, the RAC estimates.

The Department for Transport has created an online car checker where you can see whether your car is compatible with E10.

If after using the checker you are still unsure, you should check with the car manufacturer.

A 2018 study by the RAC Foundation found the 10 manufacturers with the highest number of E10 incompatible cars on the road were:

  • Rover - 91,624 vehicles
  • MG - 75,827
  • VW - 61,398
  • Nissan - 55,139
  • Mazda - 46,040
  • Ford - 37,578
  • Toyota - 36,646
  • Peugeot - 27,217
  • Austin - 26,368
  • Triumph - 24,943

People with incompatible cars should use super-unleaded, although this brings extra costs as it is more expensive at the pump. Protective additives are also available.

If your car is not compatible, using E10 could damage the engine.

If you accidentally put E10 fuel in an unsuitable vehicle though, don’t panic. Once the tank is down to one third or half full, simply top it up with the correct fuel. This shouldn’t cause any long-term problems.

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