24th July 2020

New E10 petrol may mean classics will "run better"

In an effort to reduce carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050, the Government have stated their intention to move to the E10 grade of petrol - which they estimate could save around 750,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

However, many classic car and bike owners will have heard and read the news stories about the potential damage their vehicles could sustain through the use of E10 fuel. At Footman James, we've been closely following the story and recently updated our article on E10 following the Department of Transport's (DfT) consultation period.

According to the DfT, potential issues of using E10 fuel in your classic can include:

  • Blocked fuel filters
  • Damaged fuel pumps
  • Degradation to flexible fuel hoses
  • Corroded carburettors

Despite this, Paul Ireland, author of Classic Engines: Modern Fuel, suggests that classic engines may actually run better using ethanol-blended fuel.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Paul said: “There’s not a lot of evidence for ethanol causing problems with cars running [alcohol fuel]. All of the tests were really focused on the practical problems, not the theoretical problems. We’ve found with the classic engines, carburettor engines run a lot better on fuel that has ethanol in and there are various reasons for that. In other words, ethanol petrol engines run better and because they run better they are actually less likely to do themselves damage. One of the problems that modern petrol causes is this phenomena called cyclic variability. And what this does is it can damage your engine when it's just running along.”

Cyclic variability causes cylinder pressures to scatter and in severe cases can cause fuel to burn or misfire.

Paul adds: "The thing to remember is ethanol petrol and alcohol in petrol is not new. It was originally launched in a fuel called Cleveland Discol, I think it was around in the 1930s."

“If you think about it, those cars although they were the new cars of the day, they are the classic cars of today and they were running on ethanol-blended petrol without any problems at all."

“The problem with ethanol-blended fuel is a lot of the things people are sayings are factually correct but they are not what the real problem is...Ethanol in petrol, it reduces cyclic variability, the engines run better on it so it is actually doing less damage to themselves when they are running.”

Paul does concede though that, as with all modern fuels, E10 is not problem-free. But rather than being a worry for classic owners, some care, maintenance and a few low-cost solutions can mean that you get the best out of using E10 fuel. You can read more about Paul's research on this topic on the MGT Society website.

In contrast, Martin Greaves of Classic Performance Engineering is concerned about the use of E10 in classic vehicles. He states, "In the industry, we are already seeing problems arising from the current addition of low levels of ethanol in existing fuels (even up to the 5% level). These problems include deposits blocking fine-mesh fuel filters, degradation of fuel pipes and hoses and internals of carburettors suffering corrosion.

The regime required to fully empty and clean fuel systems between uses of the car is prohibitive both in terms of time and practicality, and replacing components with ethanol compatible ones may not always be economical, or in certain cases, even possible.”

If you're happy with how your vehicle is running on E5 petrol at the moment, you need not worry about the change to E10. The Government has pledged that supplies of E5 as a protection grade will continue alongside E10.

Will you be using E10 in your classic when it goes on sale? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

The information contained in this blog post is based on sources that we believe are reliable and should be understood as general information only. It is not intended to be taken as advice with respect to any specific or individual situation and cannot be relied upon as such.

Topped up my sons Morris Minor Traveller from just under half full to full tank the other day at fuel station price sign there said £1.33 per litre this was for E10 didn't realise this and selected E5 at the pump and price was £1.40 per litre came out total £23 odd as his traveller is a low mileage vehicle must have been using this E5 for some time now and until the recent price rise £10 to £12 would have filled the tank from this just under half gauge position. So the moral in this story with E10 being the cheaper at £1.33 if we don't use it now how will we ever know whether or not it will be ok to use, or maybe wait for a year and others to use it in their classics and find out later if ok or not

AL, 08/09/2021

Have read a small amount about this,I have 2 classic vehicles and was not aware of this fuel being introduced. Some say use e10 others e5 it is not very clear to people which fuel to run on I will stick to e5 for both cars they are sorned due to COVID restrictions to car rally’s hopefully as time goes on things will be become clearer.

Rab, 02/09/2021

Having dealt with central and local government for 48 years one thing that has always been apparent is that politicians will always place self interest and expediency above any other considerations , politically they wish to be perceived as on message with populist views of the moment , it would be incredibly naive to assume that they have any interest in the problems caused to classic vehicle owners a group they consider of no significance in terms of votes ONLY an independent scientific evaluation of the facts by a research body free of undue influence can be trusted One can conclude that if they were as economical with our money as they have been historically with the truth we would all be better served

tony, 05/08/2020

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