Ethanol Content in Fuel

Ethanol Fuel- What to look out for:
It was still possible to purchase pure unleaded fuel up until 2009. After this time a low percentage of 5% ethanol was introduced. At this low concentration Classic car enthusiasts were relatively unaffected but in September 2021 the increase in the percentage of ethanol to 10% is a whole different game.

E5 (5% concentration)
E5 fuels are not being phased out entirely but SADCASE motorists should look around for forecourts that still sell it. The fuel station in Mill Drive is one that will continue to sell E5 fuel.
In fact even this low percentage in existing fuels today has caused some issues for older vehicles that were designed to run on contemporary petrol. Fuels containing ethanol can create problems for classic car owners. Most of these cars run best on pure gasoline, not gasoline treated with ethanol.
Most Sadcase members then should use E5 Fuels in their older vehicles even if the price is slightly higher. The fact that most owners of classic cars do not use them as their everyday runabout will likely lessen the negative effects of ethanol fuel found in ‘Super’ grade unleaded, as well as minimising the actual additional cost of the ‘Super’ grade petrol. E5 fuels may become more expensive as they are likely to be regarded as a premium option.

E10 (10%concentration)
This fuel will become the default offering from all filling stations. Once again, please check the suitability of your car if is manufactured between 2002-2010. As of 2011 do not worry as all new cars sold in the UK must be E10 compatible.

Ethanol is an alcohol-based fuel produced from the fermentation of a range of plants, including sugarcane and grains, along with their by-products. Classic motorists have needed to be careful when filling up their classic car on the continent as the higher Ethanol content in cheaper fuels lead to less performance and real problems that could lead to many hours waiting for a pick up truck to take you and your precious car to a garage. This in fact happened to the chairman's 1954 MG TF Midget when the Ethanol content in the unleaded fuel caused severe swelling of the rubber fuel pipe effectively cutting off the fuel to the engine.

Your classic car may appear to run without issues on E10 fuel(10% Ethanol) but be beware that plastics, rubber seals and even metals may be damaged over longer periods of time. Ethanol E10 fuel can be very corrosive. Possible problems include blocked fuel filters, damaged fuel pumps, damaged flexible fuel pipes and corroded carburettors. So...

1 Use ethanol-resistant hoses or nylon tubing to replace any plastic or rubber fuel lines.
2 Replace any fibreglass fuel tanks with a stainless steel tank.
3 Use a water separator filter in the fuel line leading to the carburetor.
4 Since water collects in the filter, you can easily remove it.
5 Change out any O-rings in the fuel system to ethanol compatible rings.
6 A carburetor fogging solution prevents condensation from filling fuel bowls.
7 Use a flex-fuel-compatible fuel filter as it stops degradation of the fuel filter media.
8 Use a non-alcohol based fuel treatment to prevent excessive water collection in your fuel.
9 Ethanol based fuel treatments worsen problems caused by E10 gas.

It is also noteworthy that the shelf life of this fuel is much shorter than E5 petrol.
Do not despair if you do not have an option but to purchase E10 fuel or have possibly filled up in error. Some drivers may be lucky in only noticing “pinking” or pre detonation when running their car. They may also find it difficult to start their classic cars engine especially in the morning when temperatures have yet to rise. If your car continues to run then delay filling up again, maybe letting the fuel level drop to 25% so that larger volumes of E5 fuel can be added. Others of course may need garage assistance.

So why do we need E10 ethanol in fuels?

Many people are questioning why E10 fuels should be introduced to filling stations. As usual the answer is based on politics with the government looking to reduce the import of oil. The debate is hotting up though as it is now largely accepted that E10 fuels produce up to 33% less power with the vehicle fuel economy dropping by maybe 3%. Less power and worse fuel economy!
There is a positive side however. It’s estimated that the greener fuel could reduce CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes per year, the equivalent of taking up to 350,000 cars off the road in the UK. As we know the government is committed to a policy of reducing CO2 emissions. The ultimate goal of course will be electric cars although we should wonder how the electricity supply in our area is generated.

Rachel Maclean the Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport) has written
“Increasing the share of bioethanol in petrol by blending up to 10 per cent, known as E10, could provide significant carbon savings, helping us meet our climate change commitments. One of the main barriers to introducing E10 has been vehicle compatibility. Currently, around 95% of petrol cars used in the UK can use E10, but around 700,000 are not warranted by their manufacturers to use E10. This number is expected to decrease as vehicles come to the end of their life. However, some classic and cherished vehicles that are not advised to use E10 will remain in use. The prolonged use of E10 fuel in those older and classic vehicles not under manufacturer warranty can cause corrosion of some rubbers and alloys used in the engine and fuel systems."

Some filling stations will also not have the capacity or be able to provide both E5 and E10 fuels on their forecourts. Maybe drivers should undertake a little research when travelling out of Sussex possibly even storing a good sturdy fuel can full of E5 in the boot. A good option rather than be forced to use an E10 fuel.

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