July 31, 2018

New E10 petrol poses threat to classic cars

The proposed introduction of E10 petrol poses some serious challenges for owners of classic vehicles. But now, the Government is consulting on ways to preserve supplies of E5 fuel for classic cars…

A Government consultation has revealed that in just two years’ time, UK forecourts could be selling a new generation of ‘green’ petrol known as E10. It’s a blend of 90% regular unleaded and 10% ethanol, and its introduction will help Britain meet its climate change commitments.

But for owners of classic cars there’s a big problem on the horizon. While classic vehicles can happily run on the E5 petrol currently on sale, the new E10 fuel with its higher percentage of ethanol can cause all sorts of problems for them.

According to the Department for Transport (DfT), the potential issues include:

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

‘Over a million’ vehicles at risk

Exactly how many classic cars are unsuitable for E10 fuel is a matter of debate. The DfT itself reckons that the owners of at least half a million classic and cherished older vehicles would be ill-advised to use E10.

But two years ago, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders cited a figure of 1.4 million vehicles incompatible with E10 fuel.

Cost of conversion

What can be done about E10 fuel, and how can classic car owners protect their vehicles from damage?

The DfT estimates the cost of converting E10-incompatible vehicles into E10-compatible vehicles – by replacing fuel filters, fuel hoses, fuel pumps, carburettors and even fuel tanks – at anything between £236 and £1,342 per vehicle. A significant outlay that most owners will be keen to avoid.

Government consultation

So, the DfT has now launched a consultation around protecting continued supplies of E5 petrol when E10 goes on sale.

The Government’s preferred option is to introduce a ‘protection grade’ requiring larger forecourts to continue to stock standard premium 95 petrol in an E5 grade if they opt to stock E10.

The DfT explains: “The Government is keen to harness the potential benefits of introducing E10, while also ensuring that motorists who still need to purchase standard E5 petrol can do so without having to pay for higher priced 'Super' grades.”

Second option

But a second option would allow fuel retailers to decide which petrol grade is maintained as E5. This could potentially mean suppliers only offering super grade E5, which can be 10p per litre more expensive that the standard E5.

For most classic car owners, the first of these two options are likely to be the more attractive.

The Government’s consultation runs until 16 September 2018.

Follow this link to read the DfT’s explanatory document to get up to speed on E10 petrol, consumer protection and fuel pump labelling.