Unleaded petrol containing up to 10% ethanol (E10) is becoming widely available as an alternative to regular unleaded petrol (ULP). In NSW it has replaced ULP at petrol stations. In states where there is still a choice at most petrol stations, E10 is cheaper per litre than ULP and most modern cars designed for ULP can safely use E10.
However, there are a few matters worth considering for the money and time conscious. Ethanol fuel has a lower energy value, so your engine will burn more fuel all things being equal. The extra fuel consumption will neutralise the cost per litre benefit you thought you were gaining. So E10 is not really cheaper despite the lower price tag. Also, over time you’ll be filling up more often so wasting time and fuel when interrupting your journey for a pit stop.
Secondly, not all cars are designed to be compatible with as much as 10% ethanol in the fuel. Ethanol is a solvent and corrosion issues are possible. Check the FCAI website for cars which cannot use Ethanol.
Finally if your car is designed to use a high octane fuel, E10 is not suitable. Your vehicles handbook will clearly state a minimum RON 95 or greater. Continue to fill with the recommended premium unleaded petrol.
So, given the minefield of potential compatibility problems, and the questionable economics of ethanol blended petrol, why ever would you use E10? The compelling reason is that it’s going to help save the planet.
Burning ethanol as a fuel is said to be better for the environment because of its potential to be made from green waste. In Australia ethanol is made from wheat crop and sugar cane waste. The carbon released from our exhaust pipes is offset by the carbon taken out of the air by the plant as it grows.
Personally I am happy to accept this justification, so long as the ethanol we use continues to be produced from green waste. If we start using ethanol made from crops grown specifically for ethanol production, this will only add to pressure on global food production resulting in worsening starvation and require larger amounts of land to be cleared for crops.
However if you’re not convinced by the green agenda which also gave us the Toyota Prius Hybrid, is responsible for three different rubbish bin collections and made Peter Garrett mad enough to join mainstream politics, then best stick with good old (very old in fact) fossil fuels to save your time and money.
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