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Lower-carbon E10 petrol to be introduced in the UK from 2021

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A new form of lower-carbon petrol comprised of up to 10 per cent bioethanol is set to be made available at petrol stations around the UK from 2021.

Launching a consultation on the plans, the Government said the fuel type - known as E10 - has the potential to cut CO2 from transport by 750,000 tonnes per year, roughly equivalent to taking around 350,000 cars off the road.

Current petrol grades in the UK already contain up to 5 per cent bioethanol, known as E5. E10 would see this percentage increased up to 10 per cent, a blend which is already popular in other European countries such as Belgium, Finland, France and Germany.

Use of E10 has been primarily driven by world energy shortages that have taken place since the 1973 oil crisis, although in recent years environmental concerns have also contributed to its popularity.

Its use decreases emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 by an estimated 2 per cent over regular petrol, although fuel consumption by vehicles that use it is marginally higher than E5 (about 0.7 per cent on average).

A consultation document published by the Department for Transport (DfT) states that E10 should replace E5 at all filling stations, while those forecourts offering more expensive super-grade petrol would substitute this for E5.

This would be accompanied by a “comprehensive communications campaign” and an online compatibility checker tool.

The majority of vehicles in use today are approved to be fuelled with E10, but some older vehicles are not. The DfT acknowledged that around 700,000 petrol cars in use in the UK - around 3 per cent of total cars - are not approved for use with E10.

Labels have already been introduced at petrol stations to show drivers the biofuel content of each pump.

“The next 15 years will be absolutely crucial for slashing emissions from our roads, as we all start to feel the benefits of the transition to a zero-emission future,” said Grant Shapps, transport secretary.

“Before electric cars become the norm, we want to take advantage of reduced CO2 emissions today. This small switch to petrol containing bioethanol at 10 per cent will help drivers across the country reduce the environmental impact of every journey. Overall, this could equate to about 350,000 cars being taken off our roads entirely.”

AA president Edmund King said: “We support the introduction of E10 petrol as it will radically help to cut carbon and greenhouse gas emissions. The E5 labels introduced in September are very clear, but drivers will need to be reminded that E10 will be the norm for the majority of vehicles.

“However, one tankful of E10 mistakenly put into an older E5 car should not cause problems.”

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said that, while some of the UK’s incompatible cars are historic vehicles doing a few miles a year, many are “older, everyday run-arounds owned by those on lower incomes”.

He added: “Saying that E5 will still be available is all well and good, but not every fuel station will have tanks to dispense it from, and, where it is available, it is likely to cost more than today which could be an issue for the cost-conscious owners of older cars used to filling up at their local supermarket.

“The introduction of E10 in other countries has been marred by the absence of a comprehensive and trustworthy look-up table for drivers to check whether their vehicle is compatible with the new fuel or not, so it is encouraging to see ministers’ commitment to such a tool to accompany the introduction of E10 here.”

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