University Swansea (UK), September 3 (The Conversation) The introduction of a new type of gasoline, E10, in the UK may result in additional costs for owners of older cars, but the goal is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.
E10 is an automotive fuel made from 90% regular unleaded gasoline and 10% ethanol, hence the name E10.
Ethanol is an alcohol (also called ethyl alcohol or grain alcohol) that is produced both as a petrochemical or through biological processes, from plants, including sugar beets and wheat. It is possible to run cars on pure ethanol, as has been done in Brazil for decades, but in the UK it is blended with petroleum-derived fuel. Current grades of gasoline in the UK (E5) contain up to 5 percent ethanol, the remaining 95 percent being regular unleaded gasoline.
The UK government maintains that the use of E10 gasoline is an environmental measure aimed at reducing COâ emissions. The government states that by doubling the proportion of the renewable component (ethanol) in fuel, a reduction of 750,000 tonnes of COâ could be achieved, which could be equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road.
Fuel made from plants
The objective is to use exclusively ethanol of plant origin to manufacture E10. One of the benefits is that as the plants that will become the fuel grow, they absorb more carbon dioxide than will be released into the air during fuel production and combustion, thus reducing emissions. But how much of this happens is still a topic of active debate. The concept is good, but the source of ethanol makes a crucial difference.
Previously, studies suggested that ethanol made from corn reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 20% compared to gasoline. COâ calculations suggest that corn ethanol is carbon negative – but if you look at the whole picture, it is actually carbon positive when you consider the land changes due to its production and the loss of others. carbon captures by whatever you replace corn.
There is also fear that crops will be used to make fuel for the rich, while the poor starve, a July 2008 report found that between 2002 and 2008, biofuels accounted for 70% of price increases in the world. ‘foods such as corn and sugar beet in the world.
If global COâ emissions are to be reduced through the use of E10, ethanol must not compete with food production. For example, making ethanol from waste, including that made from a combination of wine unfit for human consumption and whey, a by-product of cheese making, will not increase food prices. food.
Ethanol is easy to mix with other fuels to keep the engine from knocking and improve a car’s performance. This is not all good news, however. As a fuel, E10 is slightly less energy dense, which means it could reduce your car’s miles per gallon by up to 1%.
What is not widely known is that since 2016 new cars are certified for emissions and performance using E10 fuel, so when you bought a car and were told how many kilometers per gallon it would make, that number was already based on the use of this new fuel. .
All cars registered since 2011 must be E10 compatible. Therefore, the potential problems are for owners of older and classic cars. However, the government has provided an online E10 checker as an easy way to find out if your car is holding up to E10 well.
The RAC estimates that 600,000 vehicles currently on UK roads are not compatible with the E10. Drivers of cars registered before 2002 are advised not to use the E10 in their vehicles as problems have been reported.
If you put E10 fuel in an incompatible car, it will still work, but gaskets, plastics, and metals can be damaged over long periods of time due to the corrosive properties of ethanol. Ethanol is also hygroscopic – meaning it absorbs water from the atmosphere, which leads to condensation in fuel tanks if the car is left unused for long periods of time.
In addition to the operational problems caused by the mixture of E10, information published by the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs confirms that the increased acidity, conductivity and chloride content of ethanol in E10 can cause corrosion and tarnishing of metal components (such as carburetors, fuel pumps, and old fuel tanks). While corrosion inhibitor additives can control this, the same cannot yet be said for its compatibility with gaskets, hoses and other unsuitable gasket materials.
So what options do traditional classic car owners have? Well, the good news is that the technology is out there to upgrade fuel systems to deal with the new fuel. At one extreme, Prince Charles had his beloved Aston Martin DB6 updated to run on bio-E85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, but at a minimum , it is good practice for conventional owners to renew the old fuel lines. as a precaution anyway. A modern fuel hose from a reputable supplier is recommended for use with E10.
Price differentials in rural areas
Current regulations require larger forecourts to sell two grades of gasoline in order to continue selling E5 fuel. This will only be offered in the more expensive unleaded super, however, which has its own problems: in rural areas it can be difficult to find a retailer large enough to stock it. Super unleaded is also a more expensive fuel, with the price differential likely to widen further over time.
If consumers want to be comfortable with E10, they will need to be reassured that it will work in their cars, but some people may also be concerned about the source of the ethanol. The first is widely available information, but the second is something that suppliers are going to have to accept in the same way that grocery chains now tell us the region of food production.