This week has seen the implementation of E10 petrol as the new standard petrol grade, but what exactly is E10 fuel and what does it mean for classic vehicle owners?

E10 petrol is made up of 90% regular unleaded and an average of 10% ethanol, which is a 5% increase from the previous E5 standard.

While E5 can be used in practically any petrol – based car engine, E10 comes with its limitations, so it is important for vehicle owners to know the basics and potential risks following the upgrade.

What is ethanol and why is it being used?

Ethanol is a renewable colourless alcohol- based fuel, which is derived from agricultural sources such as sugar beet, wheat, and other grains.

It is thought to be a more environmentally friendly source of fuel, as the plants that will become fuel absorb more carbon dioxide as they grow than will be released into the air during production and combustion. To find out more about the benefits and uses of ethanol, click here.

The new fuel legislation has been introduced as part of the UK’s commitment to reduce emissions to a ‘net zero’ target by 2050. It has been reported by the government that by doubling the proportion of ethanol in fuel, a 750,000-tonne reduction in CO₂ emissions could be achieved; the equivalent of taking 350,000 cars off the road.

Furthermore, the increased production and use of ethanol could be positive for businesses in the farming and manufacturing sector as it can be sourced from processed corn. Bringing in the E10 standard puts Britain in line with other European countries, as well as parts of South America and Australia.

What does it mean for older / classic vehicles?

The government have confirmed that all post- 2011 petrol – powered vehicles will be able to use E10 fuel, as will the majority of vehicles manufactured since the late 1990s. Use the government’s checker resource to see if your car is compatible with the new fuel standard here (but beware that some manufacturers are not included on this database).

It is estimated by the RAC that around 600,000 older cars will be incompatible with E10 fuel, which means issues could arise over the next few months for classic owners. Research by the FBHVC shows that high concentrations of ethanol in petrol could cause corrosion and damage to older engines. Materials such as cork, shellac, epoxy resins, nylon, polyurethane, and glass- fibre reinforced polyesters, which are commonly found in classic engines, can be weakened by ethanol over time.

Thankfully, it’s not all bad news. E5 fuel will still be available in many petrol stations (check out where you can get E5 here) and the government are urging road users to continue using the E5 compound if E10 is not suitable.

 However, there is a chance that prices could rise as E5 has moved to the super unleaded protection grade in many petrol garages. At this stage, its hard to say how exactly this will look, though the AA has warned that prices could rise by as much as 28p per litre in expensive areas. Historic owners could face an extra £15 charge when topping up a full 55- litre tank and thus are being advised to fill their tanks in supermarket petrol stations, as these tend to be slightly cheaper.

Furthermore, if necessary, the occasional use of E10 petrol in an older engine will not cause any lasting damage. The FBHVC advises that regular upkeep and maintenance of your vehicle will help keep your engine running at its best!

Ultimately, the recent switch in petrol legislation will bring many changes, only time will tell the long term effects on classic engines.

If you’re looking to avoid new costs and complications, or think its time for a change, sell your classic car at!

What are your thoughts on the new petrol regulations? Let us know in the comments below!