Fossil fuels, diesel, in particular, are constantly in the news – higher parking charges, ULEZ, T-Charge, emissions, air pollution, Road to Zero … it seems that anything to do with cars, trucks and buses centres around one thing – dirty emissions and air pollution.

We’re led to believe that electric vehicles are the saviour of the motor car, and while that may be true, they are still some way off from being a viable alternative for many drivers, so the next best thing is biofuel. Right?

Under the Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations order, all fuel currently sold must contain a biofuel element of at least 4.75%, with that figure rising to 10% by 2020.

But not all cars are compatible with the ‘E10’ blend of fuel, and you may be surprised to hear that it isn’t just vintage motorists that will be hit with an incompatibility issue – many of the older Volkswagen Golfs Nissan Micras and Fords will suffer, even those manufactured after the year 2000.

E10 Biofuel

The E10 biofuel has already been rolled out in other countries – parts of the European Union, Australia and the U.S. have seen a semi-successful introduction, although it does have its detractors, not least of all, a number of environmental groups.

However, estimates say that by 2020, there will still be 634,309 vehicles in use on UK roads that won’t be able to swap over to the new fuel, so where does that leave them?

The Department for Transport (DfT) says that larger petrol stations will have an obligation to provide the existing blend, much the same as 2-Star and 4-Star, and then unleaded, but the question has to be asked – where will the price point sit?

Assuming that there’s no discernible difference between E10 and the current E5 (in manufacturing cost), will the price remain static or comparable? Or will the station owner deem it as an extra service they offer, and therefore, charge more? Or assuming that due to further costs involved for the manufacturing of the E10, the price will rise, and therefore have a knock-on effect on the E5 fuel – due to loss of sales of the more expensive product.

The detractors

For many, including the aforementioned environmental campaigners, E10 biofuel is definitely not the answer. James Beard, climate and energy specialist at the World Wildlife Fund said: “Some forms of biofuels can do more harm than good and should be phased out, but not all biofuels are bad”, whilst the Royal Academy of Engineering says that some biofuels have led to more emissions than those produced by fossil fuels.

So are the Government robbing Peter to pay Paul? Simply trading one lot of CO2 for another?

Is this purely a strategy to say they’ve ticked the box of implementing CO2 reducing fuel? It would seem as though it is. Detractors say that biofuel doesn’t necessarily reduce CO2, mainly because of the intensive methods to process it, and others say that the conversion of land into farms to supply bioethanol has been linked to the destruction of wetlands and forests, a process which in itself releases quantities of carbon emissions.

So where does that leave us? Are we all to embrace biofuel, in particular, the E10 blend as though it alone is saving the planet? Or should we just chalk it up to another half-hearted attempt by the government to assuage bureaucracy?

Affected cars

The top ten list of cars that won’t be compatible includes some surprising anomalies, but as you’d expect, there are a few classics in there as well.

Number one on the list is perhaps the most surprising, but it must be noted that none of the cars on the list include the year of manufacture, so the picture isn’t that clear.

  1. Volkswagen Golf – 28,066*
  2. MG MGB – 20,890
  3. Mazda MX-5 – 18,162
  4. Nissan Micra – 15,785
  5. Morris Minor – 12,796
  6. Rover 25 – 9,879
  7. MG MGF – 9,352
  8. Ford Escort – 8,947
  9. Rover Mini – 7,614
  10. MG TF – 7,568

* Estimated numbers on the road in 2020

Given that the Golf has been in production for nearly 45 years, there are two important points; there are plenty of them on the UK roads, and the date range could be vast – the report mentions some vehicles newer than 2000 MY, but that still leaves at least 26 years to choose from.

No doubt there will be some readers affected, but if you own a classic MGB or Morris Minor, surely the nature of ownership is one of cherishing and love. Would you really begrudge having to drive an extra ten miles to find a larger forecourt that stocks the current blend?

What do you think about the plans of the bioethanol fuel? Is this another ‘box ticking’ exercise? Let us know in the comments.

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