THE DEPARTMENT for Transport has announced the introduction of E10, a lower carbon fuel for petrol vehicles, as part of a push to meet CO2 targets before the ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars by 2035.
The cleaner petrol contains up to 10% ethanol – 5% higher than the levels in the E5 petrol used currently. Ethanol reduces CO2 when mixed with petrol, while the plant products used to make ethanol absorb carbon dioxide as they grow.
The Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps, said that the reduction in CO2 emissions could be up to 750,000 tonnes, which is comparable to taking 350,000 cars off the roads. At the end of September 2019, there were 38.9m licensed vehicles in Great Britain, according to the Department for Transport, meaning the introduction of E10 will have the equivalent effect of reducing the number of cars by less than one percent.
“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. But before electric cars become the norm, we want to take advantage of reduced CO2 emissions today,” said Shapps.
The government has said that the change should not affect the price of petrol, while pointing out that the new blend is already widely used in European countries such as Belgium, Finland, France and Germany. It has also claimed that it could help the agricultural sector, specifically the North East’s ethanol industry.
However, while drivers of new cars will notice no difference when filling up with E10 versus E5, owners of older cars will be affected by the proposals. The 3% of cars on UK roads that were registered before 2000 are thought to be unable to use the fuel regularly. Refilling once with with E10 should not cause damage, but repeated use could have adverse effects on the engine. This 3% includes many classic cars featuring carburettors, as well as some high performance and turbocharged models that require a higher octane rating.
The government was keen to reassure drivers of older cars that the E5 fuel will still be available, albeit in the more expensive “super” grade, though motoring groups have pointed out that not all petrol stations will have the space to stock both varieties. The government is consulting on how best to introduce the new fuel until April.
Cleaning up the roads has become central to the government’s plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2050. Transport accounted for 28% of greenhouse gas emissions in 2018, and research has shown that new engines may be worse for the environment than ones made in previous years.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma has also announced a £36.7m investment in the design, testing and manufacture of electric vehicles to lower the emissions of some of the UK’s most polluting industries. These will include cars, ships and aeroplanes.