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A STATEMENT BY THE FBHVC IN THE NEWSLETTER No.5 OCTOBER 2018
Introduction of E10 Fuel
I come lastly to a matter which is of very great importance to some at least of our members, and is of long-term significance to us all, as it bears upon the very ability to use our vehicles in the future. Many members will have been aware that the Federation was responding to a Department for Transport (DfT) Consultation on the subject, but a short explanation is probably useful to explain some of the confusion which we know has arisen.
There has for some time been a requirement, as a climate change control measure, contained in the EU Renewable Fuel Transport Obligation (RTFO) scheme. This mandates that given percentages of transport fuels must come from non fossilfuel sources. While of course continued compliance with this requirement will be dependent on the outcome of Brexit, it is unlikely that the attitude of the UK Government to the justification of the principles of the RTFO will be altering any time soon. Non fossil-fuel sources means bio-fuels, which in the case of petrol driven vehicles is ethanol. The feedstocks for these fuels are varied but in the UK are mainly wheat. A significant industry has built up to support this requirement.
There are defined standards for petrol with given percentages of ethanol, primarily E5 (no more than 5% ethanol) and E10 (not more than 10% ethanol). To date no supplier in the UK has offered E10 at the pumps, though it is quite common across the Channel. The Government has recently increased the RTFO targets and is now putting pressure on the fuel supply industry to make E10 fuel available at the pumps at least on larger forecourts. The vast majority of modern vehicles have been designed to run on this fuel with no problems. Most of our vehicles, not having been designed to deal with the properties of ethanol in fuels systems and engines, are adversely affected by ethanol in petrol, and the adverse effects are greater the higher the percentage of ethanol the petrol contains. Up till now, no fuel supplier has offered in the UK a petrol which exceeds a percentage of 5% ethanol, known as E5.
Quite separately, a number of our members have vehicles which can only run on petrol with a higher octane rating than the standard grade (defined as 95RON [Research Octane Number]). This need has been met by the use of what DfT refers to as the Super grade of petrol (as we know the description varies brand by brand). These fuels are defined as 97RON and have actual octane ratings between 97 and 99. These fuels also meet the E5 standard, and indeed some contain less than 5% ethanol. From the introduction of E5 fuel until the end of 2016 there was a ‘protection grade’ which had to be supplied, which could not exceed 5% ethanol. But it was also set at 97RON. This position basically supported all of our members, including those with higher compression/performance engines.
In its recent Consultation, DfT makes clear it actively wishes the introduction of E10 fuel on at least the larger forecourts. DfT does recognise that this will require a re-introduction of a protection grade. However, it wishes that grade to be set at 95RON and E5. DfT is making this recommendation primarily to protect the owners of simply incompatible old vehicles, which it defines as being over 25 years old, which are generally in use, i.e. not being preserved. It wishes to protect these owners, who it perceives as being poorer, from having to pay for a high octane fuel their vehicles do not require.
The DfT is also proposing this protection grade only lasts for two years, which the Federation believes if too short to be of any use at all. The view of the Federation is that the constraints on tankage and petrol pumps will mean that the availability of the current Super grade may well be lost, which could make some of our members’ vehicles unusable. Therefore, the Federation, while not opposing the introduction of E10 fuel as such, is arguing strongly for the protection grade to be, as before, the 97RON E5 grade. We are also arguing that the period for the protection grade continuation should be five, not two years. I will of course revert to this issue as it develops.