More than half a million cars will be unable to use a new greener fuel set to be introduced to the UK.
The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation to review its proposal to introduce the more environmentally friendly E10 eco-fuel across the UK in 2020. The Government’s hope is that the move towards E10 fuel, currently widely available across the EU, US and Australia, will help the UK meet its emission targets.
Transport Minister Jesse Norman said: "This government is ambitiously seeking to reduce the UK’s reliance on imported fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions from transport. But drivers of older vehicles should not be hit hard in the pocket as a result."
Regular unleaded petrol on sale in the UK contains up to 5% renewable bioethanol to help reduce carbon emissions, but biofuel E10 increases this proportion to 10%. Unlike regular unleaded petrol, ethanol absorbs carbon dioxide, so is therefore thought to offset greenhouse gas emissions. A switch to E10 could see a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from UK petrol vehicles by as much as 6%, according to environmental agency ePURE.
There are, however, concerns over deforestation as E10 is produced from plants, which risks creating further CO2 complications. Critics have also argued that E10 may be less efficient than the current E5 grade fuel, which would mean drivers having to fill up their tanks more often.
E10 fuel can be used to run most modern cars but research suggests that older cars, including some from the likes of Nissan, Ford and Volkswagen, will not be able to use the biofuel.
New research by the RAC Foundation estimates a total of 634,309 vehicles on the road will be incompatible with E10 when the eco-fuel is rolled out. As of 2011, all new cars sold in the UK must be E10 compatible. As a general rule, drivers of cars registered pre-2002 are advised not to use E10 in their vehicle as problems including damage to car parts have been reported. The full list of E10 compatible cars can be found on the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) website.
That said, Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation stressed that the vast majority of UK cars will be able to run on E10, saying “As and when E10 appears on the forecourts, drivers need to know whether their cars can use it without being damaged. This analysis shows that even in a couple of years' time there will still be hundreds of thousands of cars on our roads that are incompatible with the new fuel.
“Whilst some of the cars incompatible with E10 fuel will be historic models, many will be old but serviceable everyday run-arounds that people on a tight travel budget rely on to get about.
“The good news is both that the vast majority of cars on our roads are able to run on E10 and that Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has recognised the need to protect the users of those older vehicles which are not E10 compatible.”
He added "It will be interesting to see whether the current consultation generates support for the Government's proposed way forward."
A spokeswoman from the DfT said: "This Government is ambitiously seeking to reduce the UK's reliance on imported fossils fuels and cut carbon emissions from transport. But drivers of older vehicles should not be hit hard in the pocket as a result. The E10 petrol consultation will give a better understanding of the impact of E10 on the UK market, and to ensure that drivers are protected if any changes come into effect."