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U.K. government proposes to keep low-ethanol fuels for classic cars through 2026

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Cambridge Coldhams Lane petrol station, circa 1975. Photo courtesy Sainsbury Archive.

As the U.K. government grows closer to introducing E10 ethanol-blended fuel, it’s also following through on its promise to keep existing low-ethanol fuels on the market for at least another few years under a “protection grade” classification.

The Department for Transportation’s open consultation on switching over the country’s fuel supply to E10, published earlier this week, proposes making the switch from the E5 ethanol-blended fuels (those with a maximum ethanol content of 5 percent) now standard across the country sometime next year. It’ll do so, according to the consultation, by making E10 a replacement for the current 95 Premium grade of gasoline while at the same time keeping the current 98 Super grade of gasoline E5.

Making the switch would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 2 percent, according to the DfT. That means a reduction of about 750,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide.

The majority of the U.K.’s gasoline-powered vehicles are newer and thus already compatible with E10, according to DfT materials. However, at the time of an earlier consultation that initially proposed keeping E5 in 2018, about 1.8-million vehicles—not including motorcycles—were incompatible with E10 due to their age and, according to the DfT, “there is a small risk that E5 fuel could disappear if fuel suppliers chose to introduce E10…, forcing owners of incompatible vehicles to pay more for super grade fuel, convert their engines, or risk damage to their vehicle. Government intervention is necessary due to an issue of equity; if E5 was not available at the fuel pumps, people with E10 incompatible cars will be disproportionately impacted.”

In the most recent consultation, no numbers for E10 incompatible vehicles were provided, but the DfT noted that their numbers were “falling steadily.”

By reclassifying E5 as a protection-grade fuel, the DfT will ensure that it’ll remain on the market for another five years after E10 is introduced, though that timespan may be extended.

“Five years is the longest period government could impose such a regulation before it must be reviewed under the current legislation,” according to the DfT. “Any further extension would be considered based on the situation and evidence at the time the regulation is reviewed.”

Nothing similar to the U.K.’s protection grade status exists in the United States, though at least one bill currently in Congress intends to prevent anything more than E10 from being sold in the country.

The DfT consultation will remain open until April 19. For more information, visit Gov.UK.