Dubbed the biggest change to petrol forecourts since 4star was dropped back in 2000, the new E10 (10% ethanol) petrol grade could have a huge impact to all motorists. We all use petrol (bar electric bikers), and with petrol making up most fuel types (electric and cake powered after running out of petrol), all of us will be affected. All bikes built after 2011 can use E10 without any issues. If your bike is built before 2011, there is a list and checker website below.
It is worth noting that the E5/E10 fuel grades give the maximum amount of ethanol, E5 can be a maximum 5% and E10 can be a maximum 10%. Sometimes fuels can have a lesser amount of ethanol than on the label. The video below shows the varying amounts of ethanol within common UK fuels.
Currently, petrol pumps serve up E5 grade petrol, or 5% ethanol. The new change up to E10 (you guessed it, 10% ethanol) is slightly more than just changing up the stickers on the pumps. We do get regular and premium grades of E5 at the moment, regular being around 95 RON and premium 97+. In theory, the higher octane is a better fuel. The new E10 grading will only affect the 95 RON offering, so therefore premium fuels will remain at E5 grade.
What is ethanol and why is it going into our fuel?
So mixing petrol and Ethanol (Alcohol, but not the yummy kind fit for drinking), which comes from renewable crops instead of crude oil, can reduce CO2 emissions vs fully none ethanol-based fuel. Mixing in some extra Jack Daniels and less dinosaur juice is calculated, could reduce vehicle emissions to the same level as 350,000 cars being removed from the road. America and some other European countries have already been on E10, as has Australia.
The government predicts that switching to E10 fuels will save more than 700,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. Awkwardly though, these numbers do not consider the CO2 figured needed to grow, transport, and manufacture Ethanol.
With the ethanol derived essentially from starchy food products, mainly corn or sugar, this does give farmers the possibility of more work, and revenue streams and this reduction in petrol content will reduce the reliance on actual petrol as in theory it saves us an extra 5% dino juice. However, it does have some downsides.
Ethanol and other biofuels are regarded as cleaner, lower in cost and better alternatives to the petrol it’s replacing. However, the main debate from these comes from the use of the land taken away from food production to grow the ethanol crop. With millions starving and struggling to afford food, is it wrong to take food and turn it into fuel?
Surely to meet the needs of all the vehicles on the road will take massive amounts of ethanol with some saying the worlds remaining forests and open spaces would need converting to farmland to grow enough crops.
A University of Cornell study by researcher David Pimental plotted the energy needed to grow the crops and converting them into biofuels, concluding that ethanol production from corn required 29% more energy than the fuel generates.
Is E10 better than E5?
Well, the short answer is no. For the same amount of fuel, E10 gives off less energy than E5 fuel when combusted. Some studies and tests say the switch to E10 will use 3% more fuel than current E5 fuels, with some tests claiming that the number will rise to 10%. So basically, to get the same mileage, it will take more E10 vs the old E5.
So surely a worse quality fuel that is easier to make will be cheaper?
Good one, wishful thinking. Normally you would think that saving an extra 5% petrol and replacing it with an easy to manufacture, readily available replacement would cut the price. The government seems to think that E10 will save us 0.2pence per litre, however with petrol prices fluctuating by the pence daily, I wouldn’t bank on this. Also, remember that you’re going to be using more, as it’s a worse fuel, so the average motorist will be worse off once again.
Can my bike run on E10?
Much like when lead fuels were outlawed decades ago, many vehicles were rendered incompatible and had to run with leaded fuel treatments. Now this switchover won’t be as dramatic. Owners of vehicles that won’t be compatible with E10 can still use E5 ‘Premium’ fuels which SHOULD still be readily available at the premium price.
The government has a handy online checker tool to tell you if your vehicle will run on E10 fuel. However, it would be a good tool if it actually told you. Some searches I have conducted refer me back to the vehicle manufacturer, who then promptly refers you back to the government online checker website, death by going round and round in circles.
Why is E10 bad?
At the moment, Vehicles manufactured since 2011 should be fully compliant with E10 fuels, with E10 safe to use. Some vehicles before 2011 will also be safe with E10; however, this can be pot luck. If in doubt, it would be better to be on the side of caution and continue using premium E5 grades. E5 and E10 fuels can be mixed in desperate times.
This higher amount of ethanol in the fuel can affect rubber, plastic and some metallic objects within fuel systems. E10 and older fuel systems and engines can have issues with leaking seals, damaged floats in carbs, etc., as the ethanol solvent can eat away. With many bikes using plastic fuel tanks, we’re not 100% sure how this will go. The USA did have some issues with plastic tanks distorting and failing due to E10 exposure. Also, if sitting for a long time (some suggest as soon as 3 months), fuel can jellify, causing a large mess and more damage in tanks and lines.
Ethanol likes to attract water from ambient air, combine and then settle to the bottom of the fuel tank, normally this is where the fuel pick up is. Now when the fuel pump primes the fuel system will fill with ethanol and water, not petrol causing damage. Once more this ethanol and water mixture is slightly acidic eating away at vulnerable components from the inside. Not ideal.
Oh, and remember we said that E10 was a less efficient fuel as it burns differently from E5 and regular petrol? That can cause issues with vehicles fuel metering systems. Modern systems using advanced air/fuel and lambda sensor measurements might be capable of responding and richening off the mixture to suit. Bikes that have been remapped, running piggyback systems, or old-school carbs might need resetting up to account for the fuel change. With many older bikes on the road, this could be an issue not thought of by the government.
E10 Fuel checker, How do I know if I can run E10?
Sometimes the fuel tank will have an E10/E5 sticker, giving indications if it is a modern bike. The bikes rider manual will also indicate the fuel type required, but failing that, you can use the government E10 checker tool. This tool is extremely vague in cases, but other websites can help. The Dutch E10check tool can help if you can read Dutch; if not, you might get by with the Google Translate tool.
What if I can’t run E10?
The government says that this switchover won’t affect most people. It also revolves around garages themselves choosing to stock E10 over E5, as chances are they won’t stock both. You could chance running E10 in your vehicle; however, personally, I wouldn’t as the repair bill could be costly. Unfortunately, it seems the only way is to use the more expensive E5 premium fuels. From my experience, most bikers seem to treat their steeds to better quality fuels anyway.
Can I remove Ethanol from petrol?
Sure, you can remove ethanol from petrol, however, the process can be time-consuming and labour intensive. Kits are available where you add water to the fuel, the ethanol then binds to the water and separates from the petrol. Then either the petrol or ethanol is siphoned off leaving petrol and ethanol separated. The ethanol can then be disposed of and the petrol used like normal. It is worth noting that removing ethanol from petrol will reduce its RON number, by approximately 1 point per 2% ethanol removed.
From what we can find from manufacturers the below is an outline of the UK’s common motorcycles.
BMW Motorrad E10
All models are compatible with E10. However, the number of octanes needs to be compatible with the model according to the user handbook.
Ducati Desmosedici 990 RR Vehicles registered as from 18/05/2007
Ducati Diavel 1198 Vehicles registered as from 27/10/2010
Ducati Hypermotard 1100 Vehicles registered as from 15/02/2007
Ducati Hypermotard 796 Vehicles registered as from 02/07/2009
Ducati Monster 1100 Vehicles registered as from 10/07/2008
Ducati Monster 696 Vehicles registered as from 15/01/2008
Ducati Monster 796 Vehicles registered as from 04/02/2010
Ducati Multistrada 1200 Vehicles registered as from 04/12/2009
Ducati Streetfighter 1098 Vehicles registered as from 12/01/2009
Ducati Superbike 1098 Vehicles registered as from 30/10/2007
Ducati Superbike 1198 Vehicles registered as from 03/09/2008
Ducati Superbike 848 Vehicles registered as from 20/05/2010
Harley Davidson E10
All Harley-Davidson models from Model Year 1980 are compatible with E10 fuel.
All models before this model year should use RON 98 fuel.
All Honda motorcycles and mopeds produced for the EU market since 1993 can use ethanol-blended gasoline up to 10%, although carburettor-equipped models could experience poor driveability in cold weather conditions.
E10 fuel compatible Kawasaki motorcycle models:
KLX125 – 2010
D-Tracker 125 – 2010
KLX250 – 2008
Ninja 250R – 2008
Ninja ZX-6R – 2007
ER-6n – 2006
ER-6f – 2006
Versys – 2007
Z750 – 2007
W800 – 2011
VN900 – 2006
Z1000 – 2009
Z1000SX – 2011
Ninja ZX-10R 2006
ZZR1400 – 2006
1400GTR – 2008
VN1700 – 2009
VN2000 – 2008
KTM motorcycles and ATVs are compatible with E10 from the model year 2000 onwards.
2002 Model Years and onwards – all motorcycles can use E10 with no problems.
1992-2001 Model Years – some models can use E10 fuels, and some models cannot. The user should contact his national importer for clarification.
1991 Model Years and earlier – RON 98 (no bio-fuel content) must be used.
All models, starting from Model Year 1990, are compatible with E10.
All Yamaha models from Model Year 1990 are compatible with E10.
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