Currently reading: What is E10 fuel and can I use it in my car?
Since September 2021, British fuel retailers have had to adopt a new petrol formula to reduce emissions

The widespread adoption of E10 petrol is now complete, with almost every forecourt across the UK dispensing it from the green pump. It was in September 2021 that the government announced the enhanced ethanol-mix fuel would become the new standard grade of unleaded petrol across Great Britain, citing its lower CO2 emissions compared with the previous E5 blend. Northern Ireland followed suit in November 2022.

Many may not have noticed the changeover to E10 fuel, but question marks remain over its adoption – from whether your car is able to run on it, to whether it reduces fuel economy, if it’s okay to mix it with E5 petrol, and much more besides.

We explain everything you need to know about E10 fuel in this comprehensive guide.

What is E10?

In order to make conventional fuels less environmentally harmful, it was decided to blend in some renewable content such as biodiesel and ethanol. This is nothing new: it has been going on with petrol and diesel in the UK since the early 2010s.

Ethanol is an alcohol fuel that’s produced from a range of plants, including sugar cane and grains. The upside is that, unlike regular unleaded petrol, growing the crops that make ethanol actually absorbs CO2, partially offsetting greenhouse gas emissions.

Before the introduction of E10, the standard unleaded petrol was called E5 and made up of 95% regular unleaded petrol and 5% renewable ethanol – hence the name.

Diesel remains as B7, made up of 7% biodiesel.

Blending renewable fuels in this way has reputedly contributed to a CO2 emissions reduction equal to taking more than a million cars off the road.

E10 was introduced to further reduce the emissions produced by petrol vehicles by doubling the amount of ethanol used to 10%.

The UK government estimated that its widespread adoption could reduce CO2 output by 2%. That might not seem like a huge amount, but as Britain moves towards a net-zero-carbon future, every little helps.

E10dangerwarning hagerty

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Can my car run on E10?

Most cars built in the past 20 years or should be able to run on E10, because the fuel has been widely available in other countries for years. In fact, of the roughly 30 million cars in the UK, the RAC Foundation has estimated that just over 634,000 won’t be able to use E10. Of these, only 150,000 were built after 2000, meaning most are classic or vintage machines.

For these older cars, experts have warned that the increased ethanol content is likely to lead to issues in the long term, the most common being blocked fuel filters, damaged fuel pumps, the rapid degradation of fuel lines and corroded carburettors. However, the government has confirmed that owners of these cars will be able to purchase less problematic E5 fuel, albeit in more expensive, higher-octane super-unleaded form. The Petrol Retailers Association said in 2021: “E5 will still be available in five years' time, but only as the protection grade in ‘super’. It will be reviewed in five years' time.”

Which cars cannot run on E10?

Most petrol cars manufactured since the 1990s are able to run on E10 fuel without issues, but there were some exceptions – particularly during the early 2000s.

The government’s website hosts an E10 compatibility checker, which asks you to enter the manufacturer of your car. It will then tell you which petrol cars from that brand are compatible with E10, and which are not. For example, entering Alfa Romeo tells you that all petrol engines used in the Mito supermini are compatible with E10. However, only a select few in the 159, Brera and Spider can run on it.

If you still aren’t sure after checking online, look inside your car’s fuel filler flap or check the owner’s manual. Failing that, ask the manufacturer, or consult a specialist forum such as an owner’s club.

Since 2011, all new cars sold in this country have had to be E10-compatible.

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What happens if I put E10 petrol in my old car?

If you make a mistake at the pumps and brim your older car with E10, all is not lost. Unlike the fuel-tank draining consequences of a petrol-diesel misfuel, simply dilute it with E5 from then on and it should be fine. But don’t make a habit of it, say the fuel manufacturers, including Shell.

E10 can affect older cars in the following ways:

Cold start

Higher ethanol content in petrol can make it harder to turn over an engine from cold.

Vapour lock

Ethanol’s higher volatility can contribute to vapour lock (petrol becoming gaseous) when operating temperatures are higher, causing stalling.


Ethanol’s high solvency can cause problems with many seal and gasket materials that are used in fuel systems, as well as with glassfibre resins.

More leaks

Besides a risk of fuel leaks, rubbers and resins can get partially dissolved, producing deposits that could foul carburettor jets.


Ethanol can become acidic and cause corrosion of aluminium, zinc and galvanised materials, as well as brass, copper and steels coated in lead or tin.

Should I use E5 or E10 petrol?

If your petrol car is unable to run on E10 (see above), then E5 fuel is still available, albeit in more expensive (and higher-octane) super-unleaded form.

But if your car’s user manual says it's compatible with E10 fuel, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it. Apart from a drop in fuel economy compared with the E5 alternative, there should only be a minimal difference at all in the way your car drives. 

Porsche 911 997 red shell petrol pump 0

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Should I use E10 petrol in my sports car?

Many performance cars – the BMW M5, Mercedes-AMG A45 and Porsche 911, to name a few – are designed to run on high-octane fuels, typically demanding 98 RON or better. Currently, fuels with these octane ratings are still E5 blends.

That isn’t to say that you can’t run them on E10, but you might notice a slight change in the engine’s power delivery: regular users of super-unleaded often report that their car ‘feels’ more responsive, especially in the low to medium rev ranges. Many independent studies have revealed the modest power gains that can be gleaned from higher-octane fuels, with testers reporting subjective improvements on the road.

If you want to make sure you’re getting the most out of your car’s engine in terms of performance and fuel efficiency, then super-unleaded is still the way to go. Yes, it’s more expensive to buy, but factor in a slight increase in fuel efficiency over 95 RON unleaded – particularly E10 – and the cost difference might not be as noticeable as you expect.

Does E10 fuel give lower MPG figures?

The US’s Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that E10 can reduce fuel economy by 3-4% compared with fuel that does not contain any ethanol.

This happens because ethanol contains around 33% less energy than pure petrol. So you have to burn more of it to achieve the same power output. 

Nonetheless, if your car’s user manual says it's compatible with E10 fuel, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t use it. Apart from that drop in fuel economy compared with the E5 alternative, there should be only a minimal difference at all in the way your car drives. If you’re unsure which fuel to use, always consult the car’s manual.

Cobham retail station uk 2017

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Is it okay to mix E5 and E10 petrol?

Yes, it is okay to mix E5 and E10 petrol. The risk of using E10 in a car that is not built to use it is to do with the corrosion of rubber and plastic components, rather than any issues with how the engine runs. This corrosion takes place over an extended period of time, so one-off use shouldn’t cause any problems.

If you fill a car that isn’t E10-compatible with the fuel, the RAC recommends topping it up with E5 after using a quarter of a tank. As long as you don’t make a habit of using E10 regularly in a car that does not support its use, you should be fine.

If you’ve filled a car that isn’t E10-compatible with the fuel and plan to let it sit for an extended period – such as putting it into storage for the winter – make sure you’ve cleared as much E10 from its fuel system as you can using the above method.

Additional reporting by James Disdale and Charlie Martin

Join the debate

Add a comment…
simon194 14 November 2021

I did my first long run to Wales earlier this week since E10 was introduced and I will admit the fuel consumption has increased, averaging about 46 mpg compared to around 48 mpg I got a couple of years ago when I did the same run. Honestly can't say that I noticed any difference in performance either. Maybe some engine work better with E10 than others.

BTW my car is a 2006 Vectra with the 1.8L VVT engine.

Me2 5 September 2021

The car should be OK with E10, but our boat outboards, lawnmower, strimmer etc probably not. 

We already had trouble with using E5 petrol in a Mercury two stroke outboard some years back.

The fuel line to the plastic tank had a plastic vapour lining which was disolved by the ethanol in the petrol. This plastic lining was to stop petrol vapour escaping into the environment, and was apparently to comply with legislation in the USA.

This resulted in the engine running on fuel heavily contaminated with plastic, until it cut out due to a blockage, it also contaminated the petrol in the fuel tank turning it yellow, so it had to be dumped.

Ethanol also absorbs water vapour which can result in a layer of ethanol disolved in water at the bottom of the tank with the petrol sitting on top. I've also read it doesn't keep well.


daveydavey 2 September 2021

I have an issue where I have had to replace the O2 sensors post andd pre cat, as this is what the diagnostic tool advised.  My thinking is around the fuel air mixture monitoring by the ecu is now sending errors and illuminating the engine management light.

So if it burns at a different rate does the ecu neeed to be remapped to take this into consideration.  

My vehicle is 65 plate Ford EcoSport.