An E10 petrol pump in Kettering, England, photographed on September 1, 2021.
Joe Giddens | PA Images | Getty Images

The U.K. government has started the rollout of E10 gasoline to pumps, claiming the fuel, which contains ethanol, could cut carbon dioxide emissions from transport by 750,000 tonnes each year. This equates to removing 350,000 cars off roads, it said.

Known as E10, the gasoline is blended with as much as 10% ethanol and can be used with more than 95% of all petrol vehicles, according to authorities. Going forward, E10 will become the standard grade for petrol in England, Scotland and Wales. It’s slated to be introduced to Northern Ireland next year.

E10 is already widely used in countries such as the United States, Australia and across Europe. It has been used in the U.S. for decades and now makes up the vast majority of gas sold in the country.

British motorists with older vehicles are being advised to check if they are compatible with the new fuel using an online tool. If this is not the case, they are being told to use a different blend, E5, which contains as much as 5% of renewable ethanol. Diesel fuel is not changing.

“Although more and more drivers are switching to electric, there are steps we can take today to reduce emissions from the millions of vehicles already on our roads,” Grant Shapps, the U.K.’s transport secretary, said in a statement.

“The small switch to E10 petrol will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as we accelerate towards a greener transport future,” he added.

Edmund King, who is president of driving association the AA, described the introduction of E10 as “a positive and simple step to help reduce the carbon impact from road transport.”

However automotive organization the RAC cited research that found that 27% of British drivers surveyed had not checked if their vehicle was able to use E10. In addition, 24% did not even know E10 was being introduced.

The U.K. government has previously said roughly 600,000 vehicles on its roads are not expected to be compatible with E10. The RAC said drivers of these would “have to seek out and pay for more expensive, E5 super unleaded if they wish to keep them running.”

Net-zero plans

The government’s announcement comes at a time when the U.K. is laying out plans to move away from the internal combustion engine and develop a net-zero transport sector by the year 2050.

It wants to stop the sale of new diesel and petrol cars and vans by 2030 and require, from 2035, all new cars and vans to have zero tailpipe emissions.

In a sign of how the landscape appears to be changing, Wednesday also saw energy major Shell announce plans to install 50,000 on-street electric vehicle “charge posts” in the U.K. via its subsidiary, Ubitricity. 

Earlier this week, the UN Environment Programme declared the end of the leaded petrol era. “When service stations in Algeria stopped providing leaded petrol in July, the use of leaded petrol ended globally,” the Nairobi-headquartered organization said. 

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