In 2021 the UK government will mandate the use of E10 unleaded as the primary fuel being sold on forecourts, replacing the current standard of E5.
E10, or 10% Ethanol blend biofuel is the next step in the attempt to reduce emissions, which, if adopted by the majority of drivers will reduce levels to an equivalent of removing 350,000 cars from UK roads and help to meet the environment targets.
While a good move for the environment, the increase in Ethanol could have a negative effect on older cars; while all cars made after 2011 support this fuel, those before, especially our much cherished classics have components that will suffer corrosion with E10.
The media have whipped up a storm around the change, but the reality is that a few fairly minor changes and increased maintenance should negate the majoirty of the issues.
The main issues of increased Ethanol in the fuel are corrosion based. It degrades older rubber pipes and diaphragms, as well as cork and Zinc (Aluminium too, to a lesser degree), while this happens with E5 fuel (as anyone who has stored a car without draining the fuel can testify to), the increased levels will expediate the process.
Long term storage can exacerbate these effects if the right work hasn't been done prior to the car being put away; fuel left in the tank, tubes and carbs will degrade and corrode them and thus should be removed. We provide a classic storage prep service if this is something you are interested in, please see our 'Long Term Storage prep' page and contact us for more information.
One issue that is not very well explained in the mainstream press is that Ethanol breaks down sludge deposits in fuel tanks and pipes, which can then become blockages in filters and jets etc., which, while not a directly corrosive effect causes its own problems.
The other main issue is that any water in the fuel system will draw out the Ethanol making the water acidic, which will then corrode metals such as fuel tanks and carburettor bowls.
A side effect that is only really felt by classic cars is the weakening of the mixture; Ethanol contains oxygen, the Increase in Ethanol means an increase in oxygen percentage, which in turn effectively reduces the fuel/air mixture and makes the engine run slightly lean. In a modern car this is automatically adjusted by the ECU, whereas a classic needs manual intervention. While not a direct degradation, unchecked it could have a negative effect on the engine and the running of the car.
All classic cars can run on E10, all will need some changes to be made, with some needing more than others, but some effects can be mitigated by increased maintenance and sensible storage.
Water in the fuel is a big contributor to corrosion, especially with E10, so taking extra care to make sure none enters the system is an easy step to prevent damage. It's not unusual for the odd drop to fall in if it's raining hard, or the car is wet when filling up, but drying the bodywork around the filler and using a station with good cover can go a long way to help.
The use of Nitrile pipes in place of the older rubber ones will prevent pipe wear and replacement of fuel pumps for E10 rated ones will ensure those components are secure; some manufacturers are producing E10 rated diaphragms, but not all, so increased maintenance and inspection intervals will make sure your car isn't suffering from the effects.
E5 fuel is expected to be retained in forecourts for the foreseeable future, however, it may only be in the form of super-unleaded, which has its own price effect and of course, E5 will be phased out over longer period.
Hawk Classics provide a E10 conversion service, which sounds onerous, but in most cases isn't as involved as some would make out.
While what is possible may vary slightly from car to car, depending on components available, however, in general the conversion process will involve the following:
Prices cannot be stated here as they will vary depending on the car, available components and which elements are needed, but please contact us and we can provide this costing when we know which car you have.
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