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New fuel standard to be introduced may be incompatible with some of Britain’s most popular cars

More than 600,000 cars could be incompatible with new cleaner fuels

The Department for Transport (DfT) has launched a consultation on its proposal for the UK’s larger forecourts to begin selling E10 petrol, a cleaner fuel, in order to meet climate change targets. However, research has shown that as many as 634,309 petrol cars currently on the road will be incompatible with it.

E10 petrol contains 10% bioethanol, a type of renewable fuel, to reduce carbon when burned – that’s twice the amount of the 5% maximum currently found in the petrol at your local pumps.

It’s currently available across most of the European Union, as well as the US and Australia, and the vast majority of vehicles in use today are approved to be fuelled with it. However, older models are at risk of incompatibility.

Top cars for 2018 – check our full list of Best Buy models to make sure your next model doesn’t disappoint. 

Ten most popular cars to be affected by E10 fuel

A study by the RAC Foundation has compiled a top 10 list of the most popular models set to be affected by 2020. Of the 634,309 models incompatible with E10 petrol, 150,000 will have been manufactured from the year 2000 onwards. The most popular cars are as follows:

Model Number affected
Volkswagen Golf 28,066
MG MGB 20,890
Mazda MX-5 18,162
Nissan Micra 15,785
Morris Minor 12,796
Rover 25 9,879
MG MGF 9,352
Ford Escort 8,947
Rover Mini 7,614
MG TF 7,568

We contacted an RAC representative for clarification on which specific years of the models listed above will be affected and are awaiting response.

What will happen if your car is incompatible with new, cleaner fuels?

Fortunately for affected owners, the DfT is proposing that the larger stations that will be stocking E10 will also have to maintain a complement of the older E5 grade petrol so that owners of older vehicles aren’t left behind.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘As and when E10 appears on the forecourts, drivers need to know whether their cars can use it without being damaged.

‘This analysis shows that even in a couple of years’ time, there will still be hundreds of thousands of cars on our roads that are incompatible with the new fuel.

‘While some of the cars incompatible with E10 fuel will be historic models, many will be old but serviceable everyday runarounds that people on a tight travel budget rely on to get about.

‘The good news is both that the vast majority of cars on our roads are able to run on E10 and that Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling, has recognised the need to protect the users of those older vehicles which are not E10 compatible.

‘It will be interesting to see whether the current consultation generates support for the government’s proposed way forward.’

A DfT spokesperson said: ‘This government is ambitiously seeking to reduce the UK’s reliance on imported fossils fuels and cut carbon emissions from transport. But drivers of older vehicles should not be hit hard in the pocket as a result.

‘The E10 petrol consultation will give a better understanding of the impact of E10 on the UK market, and to ensure that drivers are protected if any changes come into effect.’

Which? car emissions testing

Diesel cars are often in the news for their NOx (oxides of nitrogen) emissions. Our tests have also found that many petrol cars spew out vast amounts of carbon monoxide.

Not to be confused with carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide (CO) is a poisonous gas that is limited by European emissions laws. In our own tests, which differ from official tests, one in five petrol cars produced more CO than any official limit set in the last 25 years – and that includes several hybrid models.

Find out which petrol cars are cleanest and dirtiest, why CO matters and more about how we test cars by going to our guide on cars that produce the most and least CO.

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