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New petrol blend will push up costs


23 March 2020

Drivers of petrol vehicles will see their costs rise under Government plans to increase the proportion of bioethanol in standard petrol from a maximum of five to ten per cent next year.

The DfT’s consultation says the change will reduce a vehicle’s CO2 emissions by 1.8 per cent. But the impact assessment shows it will also make driving more expensive. 

Petrol with five per cent bioethanol is known as E5 and that with ten per cent, E10. “Moving from E5 to E10 is estimated to reduce pump price petrol costs by 0.2 pence per litre,” says the DfT. “However, as the energy content of the fuel will also decrease, motorists will have to buy more litres of fuel. Overall fuel costs for petrol cars are therefore estimated to increase by 1.6 per cent as a result of moving from E5 to E10.”

Petrol blends supplied in the UK currently contain no more than five per cent ethanol but the Motor Fuel (Composition and Content) Regulations 1999 allow it to contain up to ten per cent. The DfT says petrol retailers have been reluctant to introduce E10 for fear they will lose trade if other retailers continue to sell E5. 

“A significant number of vehicles on the road now are optimised to use E10 petrol, as E10 has been the reference fuel for new car type approval for fuel consumption and emissions standards since 2016,” says the DfT. 

The DfT estimates that E10 is unsuitable for about 700,000 petrol cars in the UK – about 300,000 classic cars and a further 400,000 cars produced before 2011.  

It proposes forcing retailers to make the standard petrol (95 octane) on sale E10. They would also have to continue offering E5 petrol for sale in the premium (98) grade. 

In practice, the ethanol content in E10 could be significantly below ten per cent because the DfT intends to specify that standard petrol has a minimum of 5.5 per cent ethanol. “Given current market conditions, we expect this would ultimately lead to higher proportions of ethanol being blended,” it says.

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