A new, more environmentally friendly formulation of fuel for petrol vehicles is causing concern with some drivers, for a number of reasons. As this is now the standard formula to be used across the UK from now on, there is a worry that the hoped for environmental benefits may be outweighed by the problems it causes. As experts try to get to the bottom of the issue, the motoring industry is understandably concerned about what implications this might have, from the sales of cars to what motorists will be able to do to solve the problems. In particular, the legal status of vehicles whose owners would prefer not to use it may be cause for challenges, and there are possible implications for the speed of electric vehicle (EV) takeup.
New Fuel Mixture
The name E10 derives from the way this new fuel is mixed. The “E” in question is Ethanol, or more specifically renewable ethanol; the 10 refers to that percentage, meaning 10% of the fuel consists of this renewable product. Previously, the UK standard was E5, on which the vast majority of the country's petrol powered vehicles ran. The increase in percentage is specifically designed to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) released by exhausts; it does not affect other toxins proven to affect breathing and other health concerns.
As of September 2021, E10 is now the UK's standard formulation. As such, MOT test centres have been working on this assumption. Of course, the vast majority of cars and vans have engines designed to work on the earlier formulation. As a result, both drivers and garages have reported issues which are believed to be the result of using the E10 formulation. For drivers, the performance of their cars is the main issue; they are noticing a marked drop in things like responsiveness and range. In the garage, the most noticeable change has been that of gasket deterioration.
Financially, drivers are reporting a worse miles per gallon return, on top of the higher price paid for E10 fuel. In terms of tests, anecdotally there are significantly more engine warning lights displaying, which is an MOT fail. Although these are easily fixable, there is still a financial cost incurred, plus the inconvenience and expense of having to book another test. Of course, it could be that a warning light fail is the one thing which makes vehicles unroadworthy, and having to be fixed before leaving the garage.
For some motoring campaigners, the problems caused by the introduction of E10 were a “disaster waiting to happen”. They say that the new, higher ethanol mixture absorbs more moisture than previous formulations, from being produced all the way to actually being burned in engines. This added moisture, campaigners say, causes rot and rust at every stage of its journey through the vehicle, from the seals around the fuel tank to the tank itself, and every link in the chain into, and including, the engine itself; at least some of these issues have been identified in MOT centres, as described above.
User groups also make the point that there was no public consultation on the introduction of the new formulation. As such, it is a product which vehicle owners are now obliged to put into their cars and vans, even though (they say) it will do harm to those vehicles. As these vehicles are usually the second most valuable asset anyone will ever own other than their home, this is an invidious position in which to be forced. As depreciation is already a major drawback of investing in a vehicle, being forced to further decrease its value seems unfair to say the least.
Of course, if it is true that this product makes vehicles deteriorate more quickly than before, this would indeed be in nobody's interest; it would speed up the time between manufacture and scrappage, which could well obviate the reduction in CO2 generated by the new fuel mixture. Also, poor performance is never a good idea; indeed, performance and fuel efficiency are two of the factors the motoring industry strives to improve with every generation of every model.
If there are environmental benefits to using the E10 petrol formulation, this is surely something to be welcomed by everyone in society. In terms of roadworthiness of vehicles, however, trusted mechanics and engineers like those at checkmot.com will be wary if this comes at a cost; added to the concerns of vehicle owners, E10's introduction could be something society should watch closely.