Jac gets a lesson in how ethanol affects fuel consumption; plus tracing a problem back to the broadband provider

Ft - Jac Roper - Service Centre

What do your customers think of E10? I recently noticed a new thread trending on my local Nextdoor site. Lots of people were complaining that they are getting fewer miles per gallon with E10 fuel.

One said he was down to 15mpg and added: “I’m sure it was around 18mpg before.” Yet another said his fuel consumption was down to 38mpg from 46mpg “and the prices have gone up drastically so it’s hitting me hard”.

Other comments included being down about 10mpg on local journeys, getting 10 miles less per tank with their motorbike, and changing back to premium “due to fewer mpg, less juddering when pulling away and especially reading about possible damage to the hoses”. One learned gentleman said: “The original idea was to supplement regular petrol so we use less of it; the other is to do with carbon dioxide emissions. The idea is that ethanol has less carbon than petrol – just two carbon atoms per molecule to petrol’s average of eight – so burning it will release less carbon dioxide. And that’s perfectly reasonable science. But that really only tells a little bit of the story. Compared to petrol, ethanol has a lower energy density. Think of it like the difference between a salad sandwich and a doughnut. Both are food, but one has a lot more energy per bite.

“In an engine, burning a less energy-dense fuel means that you need to burn more of it to get the same amount of power. This doesn’t mean that you’ll lose power if you use E10; rather that your fuel economy will drop as your car’s engine computer fiddles with fuel-air ratios to get the best stoichiometry (a fancy-pants term for the ideal mixture). So while the carbon count goes down with ethanol-blended petrol, fuel consumption goes up.” Well, I learned something there, I think.

I decided to do my own little survey to see if customers are moaning about fewer mpg.

Jon Brownsey wrote from Fordingbridge Service Station in Hampshire: “Strangely, I have had no direct moans about this, though I see plenty of comments online. I am amazed Simon Williams from the RAC hasn’t commented on this. He seems to have an opinion about everything else us evil fuel retailers do!”

And John Smith wrote from Mile End Service Station in Melin, Neath: “My lot are pretty silent about that situation, just moaning about the current pricing even though I tend to usually maintain parity with both of my local competitors (Tesco and Morrisons!)

“I have mentioned on several forums that they really need to get used to it, 10% isn’t a lot, particularly when you look at the ethanol content in Brazil, for example. For now we are just enjoying the increased throughput (and profit) on the E5 Supreme?”

Huw Griffiths, who runs two sites in Wales, said he had had no complaints about E10 but interestingly, had this to say when I included the query ‘what about prices’? because the Nextdoor thread had veered rapidly in that direction. “No, not really a problem,” he says, “Bridgend has a Sainsbury’s selling diesel at £1.389 which is my buying-in price, so I have to keep prices down to compete. Llantwit has a Tesco but they keep prices high and I do see people online complaining why Tesco Brigend is so cheap compared with their site close to mine. But Tesco price policy seems to be to screw the customer wherever they can get away with it and ignore any bad press on Facebook.”

How to contact a third party

In the previous printed copy (Nov/Dec) I recounted the saga of Amardeep Virdi from Grove Service Station in Birmingham. Basically his dedicated EFT line wasn’t working and, as EFT payments accounted for around two-thirds of his transactions, this was kind of important.

It was one of those problems involving multiple suppliers: Digital Space, Htec, Certas and it ran the risk of finger-pointing from one company to another and back again. Fortunately Certas put Htec on the case of sorting it out with the sub-contractor. And most of them pointed at broadband as the villain of the piece. It did take a couple of months of headaches and to-ing and fro-ing to fix it but in December Amardeep sent me an email with an update. “Openreach came on the Friday to install the new fibre line and on the following Wednesday Digital Space got us hooked up on the new line.”

If you Google Openreach you will see that the first question people ask is ‘Why can’t I contact Openreach directly?’ And the answer from the company is: “You can, but we’re a wholesaler and we were set up to work for communications providers – the companies that you buy your home or business phones or broadband from. Contacting them is the fastest way to fix a whole range of problems.”

Openreach Limited is wholly owned by BT plc.

Contact Jac Roper

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