Ethanol in Petrol

Updated 5th January 2014 – See comments below – DfT postpone E10 Introduction Until 2016!

Since we originally reported on this campaign by the Yorkshire Region of the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG UK), we have had some background conversations to clarify some of the finer details.

The Yorkshire Region of the Motorcycle Action Group (MAG UK) has launched a campaign regarding the maximum permissible content of bio-ethanol in petrol, from 5% to 10% (known as E10), under EU directive 2009/30/EC, which is due to come into force in 2013.
The campaign is requesting confirmation that the key recommendations made in the independent QinetiQ study commissioned by the Department for Transport (DfT) will be implemented, prior to the EU directive 2009/30/EC, coming into force next year.

In addition to this the campaign is lobbying that all fuel pumps should be clearly labelled with the bio-ethanol content of the fuel, giving the consumer a clear and informed choice.

Specific guidance and recommendations should also be made widely available, as the majority of owners are unaware of these potential issues with their older vehicles.

Yorkshire MAG says, “It is widely accepted that vehicles ten years old and older will not be compatible with E10 blends, though of course there will be exceptions to this.

There are approximately nine million petrol passenger cars and light duty petrol vehicles in the UK that are ten years old or older, which equates to about 38% of the total petrol vehicle population.

In addition, approximately ¾ million powered two wheelers (PTWs) may also be incompatible with E10 fuel.

It is not only classic and vintage vehicles that may be affected, as thousands of relatively new first generation petrol direct injection vehicles in the UK, the last new vehicle probably being sold as late as 2007, are also not compatible with E10.”

While adding that, “The UK government says this need not mean that all pump fuel should contain biofuel, and that is being left to the fuel supply and retail industries to decide. On the other hand, nor does UK government policy require that non-ethanol fuel should be widely available on forecourts.”

Yorkshire MAG Ethanol in Petrol Campaign – Click Here

Independent Study – QinetiQ

The Department for Transport (DfT) commissioned an independent study by QinetiQ to assess fuel system compatibility with bio-ethanol in early 2011. This study made a number of key recommendations:

  • Vehicles ten years old or older, carburettored vehicles (including PTW’s) and first generation direct injection spark ignition vehicles should not be fuelled on E10 unless the manufacturer can state the vehicles are compatible with E10
  • The automotive industry should produce a comprehensive list of vehicles compatible with E10. While it is acknowledged that some lists do already exist, if in doubt, the vehicle operator should seek clarification from the vehicle manufacturer
  • E5 should not be phased out in 2013, its widespread availability should continue for the foreseeable future
  • Consideration should be given to maintaining a specification for E10 fuel for historic and vintage vehicles

QinetiQ Study – Click Here

Basics of the Campaign

The basics of the campaign asks you to contact your MP, to raise awareness of the issue (and/or the Department for Transport) so that Yorkshire MAG can get questions asked in the House of Commons, directed to the Transport Minister and to request confirmation that the QinetiQ recommendations will be implemented, prior to E10 being introduced in 2013.

That specific guidance and recommendations should also be made widely available, as the majority of owners are unaware of these potential issues with their older vehicles.

The aim is to ensure that E10 is implemented in a controlled manner with minimal detrimental impact on owners and operators of older vehicles.

Yorkshire MAG will be collating responses from MP’s so they ask to forward any replies you may receive to their campaigns email address. A draft campaigns letter is available to use as a basis to writing to your MP and links to how to contact your MP.

Read this in full – Click Here

Ethonol Issues From Yorkshire MAG

The resultant problems for vehicles not compatible with E10 include:

  • Fuel filter blockage and increased wear of fuel system components: Ethanol acts as a solvent loosening abrasive deposits
  • Galvanic corrosion: Ethanol is more highly conductive compared to hydrocarbons leading to corrosion if electrically dissimilar metals are present in the fuel system
  • Air/Fuel mixture problems: Ethanol contains about 35% oxygen, so the air/fuel mixture has to be adjusted otherwise the vehicle will run lean which could cause drive-ability problems and overheating
  • Drive-ability: E10 blends can be more volatile, causing hot problems (poor hot starting, hesitation etc) and cold weather problems (vaporisation problems)
  • Deposit formation: Inlet system and combustion chamber deposits have been reported with the use of E5 and E10 blends compared to E0.
  • Material compatibility: Some materials used in fuel system components are less compatible with ethanol in fuel resulting in loss of structural integrity, swelling and softening of materials (some older glass-fibre petrol tanks and tank sealants will melt).
  • Ethanol holds more dissolved water and associated impurities leading to corrosion of metallic components.

In addition to increased maintenance & reduced vehicle life, possible catastrophic failure (fuel fires due to leaking hoses, piston seizure etc), could actually directly result in driver / rider fatalities.

It should be emphasised that for some older vehicles, or small market value, the required modifications to make the vehicles compatible with E10 or repairs after damage by E10 will be such that the vehicle is beyond economic repair.

Hence the effect of this will fall disproportionately on the poorer members of society who run these older vehicles and cannot afford to purchase newer more expensive vehicles.

This is an unacceptable state of affairs when a significant proportion of the population are suffering hardship in this difficult economic climate.

Read this in full – Click Here

The Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs (FBHVC)

Yorkshire MAG have included a link to information from the FBHVC which lays out the issues and key points and includes information on:

  • Fibreglass Fuel Tanks
  • Effects On Tank Sealants Etc
  • Additives For Use With Biofuels
  • Use Of Kerosene In Petrol In Historic Vehicles
  • Study Into Material Compatibility And Carburettor Icing
  • Combustion Issues

The FBHVC also gives some background on the lobby work already completed by the Federation through contribution to a consultation on Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations from the Department for Transport (DfT) and representation at several Stakeholder Meetings held at the DfT.

Their conclusion is that” “It should be remembered that our vehicles use a very small percentage of the total UK fuel sales and it may be difficult for retailers to commercially justify stocking such fuel even if the oil companies will distribute it. The Federation will continue to monitor the situation and are working with the All Party Parliamentary Historic Vehicle Group to see what can be done. Regular meetings are being held and the discussions will be reported in the FBHVC newsletter.”

Read this in full – Click Here

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