25 March 2011 by Pelle Neroth
The roll out of E10, the petrol-ethanol mix that is hoped to become the standard car fossil fuel in Europe in the next few years , has suffered a setback with major car manufacturers warning it could cause problems with engines.
Several motoring organisations have called for a repeal of the new fuel roll-out; but the German government, and the oil majors, say they remain committed to the new fuel, which is comprised of 90% petrol and 10% bioethanol derived from sugar beets or grains.
The government claims 90 per cent of newer cars on German roads to be able to run unmodified on the new fuel mix, but the newspaper Welt am Sonntag reported two weeks ago that Thomas Bruener, the head of mechanical development at BMW, worried all cars, even its latest models, could be at risk.
He said E10's high ethanol content could generate water condensation that would enter the oil and dilute it. He told the Sunday newspaper that "to avoid engine damage, oil checks and changes may have to become more frequent".
The next day, Bruener clarified his remarks, saying the concerns were restricted to cars used outside the EU, where fuel standards were less refined.
But both Daimler and BMW are carrying out tests on their new models with the new fuels, it was reported.
Meanwhile, while there has been a run on regular supplies, critics have said that the amount of information on the kind of vehicles E10 is suitable for is "limited and confusing".
For instance, one guide being circulated by the car industry advised that all Volvos built since 1976 were suitable, as long as "maintenance instructions are fulfilled." But how do repair shops know what these instructions are? Or all Golf VWs were suited to the new fuel except those with the engine block number AXW and built in the month of April. But who the Hell knows what date their car was built on? critics have asked.
The quarrelsomeness over the new regulations comes as this most car-proud of countries weighs the costs and benefits of its equally ardent environmentalism. There is a big argument - heard in the UK too - whether in fact bioethanol is even that carbon friendly and that, unless the rest of Europe becomes as enthusiastic about green reforms as Germany, it's all anyway pointless.
One member of the public told German television:
"Energy saving light bulbs, waste separation, E10, house insulation, and all anti-nuclear power nonsense, why do this when our neighbours don't follow?"
While another said sarcastically: "At least we can now say we are opposing Gaddaffi - at the pump."
The ruling CDU party, which pushed the new regulation, faces the voters in Baden Wurtemberg at regional elections on 27 March - it's a big car manufacturing state, so the results will be interesting.
Meanwhile, in Finland, another country introducing E10 this spring, its biggest engineering magazine tested E10 and found it less efficient than regular 98 octane fuel, negating out its lower pump price introduced as an enticement to switch. It's a few euro cents cheaper per litre.
Helsingin Sanomat, the main newspaper, interviewed customers at petrol stations and found widespread scepticism. "I don't trust it at all," said one local, who said she might consider it for her employer's car but not her own
In both countries, conventional fuel will continue to be sold until at least 2013.
Many other EU countries, including Britain, Poland, Belgium etc, are
eyeing a the possibility greater bioethanol content at their own pumps.
If even the goody-goody Germans are complaining, how will other countries react when it's introduced?
Pelle Neroth -- EU correspondent
Posted By: Pelle Neroth @ 25 March 2011 10:26 AM Transport
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