By Debbie Holden 28 Aug 2018 7 min read

Older vehicles unable to use new fuel

The RAC Foundation has carried out research that shows that many cars are incompatible with a new fuel that may be introduced to forecourts in a bid to cut carbon emissions.

Regular petrol currently sold in the UK contains ~5% bioethanol which is a type of renewable fuel. The Department for Transport (DfT) has suggested that larger forecourts might be encouraged to sell E10 fuel, which contains closer to 10% bioethanol, to help the UK hit environmental targets.

E10 is already available widely in the EU, the USA and in Australia. While the majority of cars on the road today are compatible with E10, some older vehicles aren’t. Therefore, the DfT is proposing that E5 should still be made available in filling stations where drivers could purchase E10.

The models of car, incompatible with E-10 fuel, that are estimated to have the highest numbers still in use in 2020 are:

  1. Volkswagen Golf (28,066)
  2. MG MGB (20,890)
  3. Mazda MX-5 (18,162)
  4. Nissan Micra (15,785)
  5. Morris Minor (12,796)
  6. Rover 25 (9,879)
  7. MG MGF (9,352)
  8. Ford Escort (8,947)
  9. Rover Mini (7,614)
  10. MG TF (7,568)


Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “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.”

He added: “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 E-10 compatible. It will be interesting to see whether the current consultation generates support for the government’s proposed way forward.”

A spokesperson for the Department for Transport 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. 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.”

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