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Plans to introduce cleaner fuel could damage more than a million classic cars

Published 04 March 2020

The Government looks set to introduce fuel containing a higher proportion of ethanol – despite the fact it could potentially be harmful for millions of classics cars.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps says Whitehall is consulting on plans to make E10 regular unleaded on forecourts by 2021, replacing E5.

Shapps said, ‘Before electric cars become the norm we want to take advantage of reduced CO2 emissions today.’

Currently, E5 unleaded petrol contains up to 5% bioethanol. E10, which contains 10% bioethanol, is already on sale in Germany, France, Belgium and Finland.

If given the green light, the move has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions by about 750,000 tonnes per year – that’s the equivalent of 350,000 fewer cars on the road.

But the move may not be good news for owners of older vehicles. A higher proportion of ethanol in fuel could damage some classics’ components.

Previously, the department for Transport has warned that older cars could suffer from blocked fuel filters, damaged fuel pumps, degradation of flexible hoses and corroded carburettors.

Exactly how many older cars will be hurt by the new fuel, is unclear. The Department for Transport says it could have half a million, while figures from the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders put that figure close to 1.4m.

The news follows the Government’s 2018 consultation into whether or not E10 should be introduced in the UK.

In Detail

The consultation proposes to keep the supply of E5 via the higher octane super grade (known as the protection grade).

It says, 'Users of vehicles and other equipment that need to use this lower ethanol blend would be able to purchase this fuel from forecourts that offer two grades of petrol.

'We are proposing that the protection grade regulations would last for at least five years after E10 is introduced. Five years is the longest period government could impose such a regulation before it must be reviewed under the current legislation.'


   on 4 March 2020

Use super unleaded it doesn’t have ethanol added ??

Mike H    on 4 March 2020

What it doesn't mention is that users may see a drop in fuel consumption. Has this been taken into account in the calculations I wonder? Although the drop is only likely to be about 2%, and could be offset by changes to driving style, it might make a difference.

squij    on 6 March 2020

I think you mean a RISE in fuel consumption - if fuel consumption drops, you use less fuel. Other e-mails refer to E10 leading to an increase in fuel consumption.

NEIL SCARLETT    on 8 March 2020

If Mpg drops or goes lower then that is a rise in fuel consumption. By the same token if the amount of fuel required, to cover the same mileage, goes up then that is also a rise.

Either way the road fuel duty afforded to the government will increase but we will still have potholes.

Oh no! Wait a minute, think of all the extra vat incurred through expenditure on vehicle repairs. I feel such a fool now, I bow to your brilliance Mr Chancellor, we're not worthy etc. etc.

Captain-Cretin    on 9 April 2020

I had to use E10 a couple of years ago in the Alps, as there was no E5; my MPG improved a LOT; somewhere around 10-15% more than the French E5 fuel, and 20% over UK standard RON95.

Bearing in mind, this was up and down mountains at up to 3000m above sea level, while my other French and UK driving was in the lowlands.

Jonathan Deeds    on 5 March 2020

I dont see what the problem is, is this article trying to imply that cleaner fuels shouldnt be introduced because it might damage a few classic cars? If it is then its a very stupid reason after all it is very cheap and easy to convert classic cars to use these fuels without causing harm to the engine, in the 80s everyone had to convert their cars to unleaded which involved taking the whole cylinder head off, If that's doable what's so hard in changing a few rubber pipes and applying special coating in the carburettors the most important thing is these fuels reduce Co2 emissions by a great deal.

Dark Knight    on 5 March 2020

From an environmental perspective, is it better to force the scrapping of older cars that in all probability don't do many miles, and get them replaced with new cars with all the additional resources that this requires or keep these older cars running with a little extra co2 emissions? This excludes the impact of the increased inefficiency on the newer cars from the fuel change.

c Reed    on 10 June 2023

Methanol is highly corrosive. It will damage old engines. Brazil has great experience in this subject, so dont knock the dangers.

If a car is stored with methanol fuel in the system, expect trouble.

Jeffrey Foddy    on 5 March 2020

This will result in drivers putting their foot down to achieve lost performance which this E10 fuel characterizes in its chemical engineering.
Road speed humps and chicanes etc also produce vast amounts of avoidable pollution not to mention the " boy racers " amongst us!!
It would be better to properly educate motorists into driving economically and to educate politicians so that they don't waste our taxes on such futile legislation !!!
Happy motoring all, Jeff Foddy.

John Andrew Tisi    on 5 March 2020

I never had to do anything to my classic cars when lead in petrol was banned. The great disasters predicted didn't happen.
5% ethanol was supposed to be the end of classic cars. I had to reline one motorcycle tank after it eat the coating. Usual panic that will come to nothing more than a few rubber bits dissolving...easily fixed.
The classic industry are already aware of ethanol and have in the main solved it already.

The worse problem is we are growing ethanol rather than food. Sort that one out and save the forests first.

John Tisi

Eudo H.    on 10 March 2020

I am afraid that you have, rather urgently, to take a look at your Keihin and/or Mikuni carbs. There is no way that you can 'easily' fix the crud that accumulates in there even in a short month of inactivity.

Edited by Eudo H. on 10/03/2020 at 12:12

   on 5 March 2020

Government removing fossil style fuels for vehicles by 2040 means they need to raise some very quick revenue in the next 20 years, more fast burning ethanol will mean more trips to fill up, will mean more VAT paid, it's a very clever ploy to raise extra revenue from petrol as diesel sales decline and don't forget ethanol is raised from plant products, so less farming space for food crops

keith40    on 5 March 2020

Its not just classic car there are a number if car under 10 year old that cannot run on E10 inaddition to this there is the worse mpg figures which will off set the co2 because you have to use more fuel i currently loose about 3mpg if i use E10 fuel

hissingsid    on 6 March 2020

When lead was removed from petrol, additives to replace it's benefits quickly appeared on the market, but when something harmful such as Ethanol is added it cannot be removed.
Yes we can replace seals gaskets and fuel lines with Ethanol resistant materials, but coating the inside of carburettors? What with?
As a country we should be making every effort to become more self sufficient in feeding ourselves. Growing crops to make fuel ingredients is just plain wrong.

Roy Courts    on 7 March 2020

If the government is really serious about reducing output from vehicles they should introduce a driving test for all regardless of age every five years.. If this is coupled with a rigid I. D. Check to ensure that the person taking the test is the one actually getting the licence. These simple measures would reduce the number of drivers. Make the roads much better for all of us. With the benifit of fewer better quality drivers. Less hold ups means less output. An additional option would be to use taxation to reduce the price of lpg which burns much cleaner than petrol or diesel.

Edited by Roy Courts on 07/03/2020 at 15:24

56chevy    on 11 March 2020

"These simple measures would reduce the number of drivers."

They aren't simple and they wouldn't be cheap, and without recruiting millions (yes millions) of extra Police they would be pointless. There are loads of unlicensed and uninsured drivers driving around already.

   on 8 March 2020

Why can't the petrol station blend at the pump, 5%, 10% ethanol or non at all.
I would like to see the mathematical calculation regarding the reduction in CO2, in rural areas you have to drive further and further to fill up with petrol which is not condusive to reducing C02. The closures were encouraged by the then governments policy, so we are creating more C02 on the back of that policy, E10 is less efficient so we burn more fuel. Its about time some joined up thinking took place.
I can envisage a situation whereby a classic car is filled with e10 and then put into store at an underground garage, the e10 rots the fuel tank or pipes, the fuel leaks out and then catches fire. There is a desperate need for some joined up thinking about transport in government, its an oft promised aspiration but I fear that the intellectual ability to deliver the aspiration is absent

c Reed    on 10 June 2023

All this nashing of teeth over CO2, which is con of the century.

CO2 is plant food, many areas around the world are growing back to original levels

Anything Herr Snapps gets involved with is going to be a F-Up

Timm    on 8 March 2020

~If the government was bothered about reducing car pollution it would promote and reduce the tax on LPG. LPG is far cleaner than Diesel or Petrol.
Classic cars are recycling at its best. With cars lasting many lifetimes and support many spare pa
rt businesses, both small and large.
We still haven't the infra structure for electric cars and its still very hard to dispose of the battery's which only last a few years. I guess we will all scrap our battery's and electric cars like we do mobile phones.

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