The Government has launched yet another consultation on introducing E10 petrol, but this time it has spelt out specific proposals for it to replace standard E5 from next year.

The Government has been prevaricating over introducing E10, a blend of fuel with up to 10% ethanol content compared with the current limit of 5% in E5, for nearly a decade, and most recently consulted over its introduction in July 2018.

Opposition has focused on the extra infrastructure that would be required if forecourts needed to stock an extra grade of petrol, and the fact that some older cars are not compatible with E10.

The Government has been sitting on the results of the last consultation, but has now used the findings as the basis for the new consultation. It believes that introducing E10 as an additional option for petrol customers would not work because few drivers would buy it, and therefore it is proposing that E10 replaces 95 E5. E5 would still be available but in the higher octane super grade (98 E5).

It states: “We would require all filling stations (with exceptions for some remote areas and specialist/low volume retailers) to ensure their standard petrol is E10.” It adds: “We anticipate the requirement to sell E10 in 95 grade would come into force in 2021.”

PRA chairman Brian Madderson commented: “The PRA welcomes the Government’s consultation on the introduction of E10 petrol in the UK.” He said the introduction would be a good step in reducing CO2 emissions from petrol vehicles. The fuel would also be easy to introduce, as the E5 tanks at filling stations can have E10 petrol put into them without any changes aside from relabelling.

He added: “An orderly ‘mandated’ introduction by the Government, backed by a consumer education plan, is the best way to successfully introduce this.”

The UK Petroleum Industry Association (UKPIA) also welcomed the announcement as a recognition of the significant role that low-carbon liquid hydrocarbon fuels can play in combating carbon emissions. However, it urged the UK Government to ensure its introduction occurs in a pragmatic and consumer-focused way.

UKPIA Director-General Stephen Marcos Jones, said, “It is a welcome development that the government are now consulting with industry on how best to implement this evolution to the fuel landscape. Low-carbon liquid fuels, including E10 and advanced biofuels, are critical in our efforts to reduce carbon emissions from road transport in a way that can be introduced relatively easily to the forecourt. Reducing the carbon intensity of fuels, distributed directly to the consumer via existing downstream infrastructure, offers a flexible and accessible alternative to other transport technologies.

“It is imperative, however, that these changes are introduced carefully in a way that does not create unintended consequences for retailers and consumers. In particular, the government must ensure that the introduction of E10 infrastructure at filling stations remains a commercial matter for site operators, and that suitable provision is made for remote and rural communities, in order to ensure that consumer supply and resilience is maintained.”

ACS chief executive James Lowman said: “We have been asking for Government to mandate the introduction of E10 and to confirm the terms under which E5 can be offered. This consultation gives us the chance to ensure that E10 can be introduced on a timescale that’s feasible for fuel retailers, and we will work with members toward that objective.”

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams warned there could be as many as 600,000 vehicles currently in use that aren’t compatible with the fuel. He said: “Many of these are likely to be owned by those from lower income backgrounds and while it is welcome that E5 petrol is not being phased out altogether, owners of these vehicles will face higher fuel costs – and will also have to hunt out those forecourts that still sell E5. Some retailers will also not have the capacity to be able to provide both E5 and E10 fuels on forecourts, so the impact is likely to be most keenly felt by those with incompatible vehicles in rural areas.

However, he conceded: “For the overwhelming majority of drivers with compatible vehicles, the introduction of E10 petrol will make little difference other than a possible slight reduction in fuel economy.”