Since the 1st September 2021, standard (or ‘premium’) grade petrol in Great Britain has contained a higher ethanol content, known as E10. This policy change, enacted across Great Britain, lowers the greenhouse gas emissions of the UK’s petrol.
E10 petrol is also being rolled out as the new standard grade of petrol in Northern Ireland from 1 November.
This transition to E10 has been fully supported by the downstream oil sector as a practical measure to further reduce transport carbon emissions - the equivalent of taking up to 350,000 cars off our roads. Although the impact on drivers, filling station operators and the wider community has been minimal, this page is to offer information on the changes you may have seen at the pump and why the change has been made.
What is E10?
E10 is petrol containing up to 10% ethanol – with the remainder made up of hydrocarbons. Currently, standard (or ‘premium’) petrol contains up to 5% ethanol. Ethanol from renewable feedstocks is added to petrol to reduce the fuel’s carbon emissions.
E10 is the label used for higher ethanol blend petrol in the UK. Whilst the “E” of the label is originally derived from ethanol blended on top of hydrocarbon petrol, hence “E + % v/v added” labels – its use has since evolved to indicate wider oxygenate content of petrol as more petrol-viable components became available. E10 for example, could contain other oxygenates in addition to ethanol (such as methanol) in line with the relevant fuel standards.
At the petrol station, a circular ‘E10’ or ‘E5’ label will be clearly visible on both the petrol dispenser and nozzle, making it easy for you to identify the correct fuel.
The ‘E10’ and ‘E5’ labels look like this:
Does E10 affect the performance of my car?
DfT estimates that the loss in fuel efficiency is around 1%, which is unnoticeable for most drivers and is far less of an impact than other variables such as driving style or under-inflated tyres. Any small reduction in fuel efficiency is far outweighed by the GHG savings from the introduction of E10.
It’s also worth remembering that petrol engines have seen significant efficiency gains over the last two decades – around a third in Europe since 2000 (according to the ICCT).
Why has E10 been introduced?
In the UK, increased use of renewable fuels such as bioethanol is mandated by the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligation. In 2019, the vast majority of renewable fuel blended into petrol was bioethanol (>90%).
The introduction of E10 is a practical step that increases renewable fuel use in the UK now.
The policy announcement by Government to mandate E10 in the UK is an important step in the UK’s broader energy transition journey. Updated renewable transport fuels policies are essential in reducing the emissions of the light duty vehicle sector and, in time, such policies should help reduce emissions in more difficult to decarbonise transport sectors – such as aviation and HGVs – whereas part of a range of technologies, low carbon liquid fuels and hydrogen will have an important role to play.
For more information:
If you have any further questions about E10, the following links may be of help:
UK Government Explainer: E10 Petrol Explained
Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs: Fuels
UKPIA Consultation Response: Here