E10 Fuel: What is ethanol fuel & will it work for you?

The Queensland Government brought in an ethanol mandate in January 2017 requiring all large fuel retailers to ensure three per cent of their petrol sales each quarter were biofuel-based.

The majority of vehicles manufactured after the year 2000 are likely to be E10 compatible.

E10: Will It Work For You?

There are two biodiesel (one new and one old) and two ethanol plants operational in Queensland.

Despite being more readily available to a greater number of vehicles, E10 fuel still makes up just 15 percent of all petrol sales across the State.

As ethanol has a slightly lower energy content than petrol, its use will increase fuel consumption. Compared to unleaded petrol, an E10 blend will increase fuel usage by approximately three percent.

E10 therefore must be three percent cheaper than ULP to offset the increased consumption.

What is Ethanol Fuel (E10)?

  • Ethanol is a type of alcohol produced through the fermentation of vegetable matter.
  • Grain and sugarcane are commonly utilised but the use of less valuable or waste feedstocks such as grasses etc. may become commercially viable in the future.  
  • With modification, some vehicles can operate on 100 percent ethanol, but it is usually blended with petrol at concentrations of around 10 to 15 percent.

RACQ spokesperson Renee Smith said ethanol was an alternative fuel for unleaded vehicles and was made from plant material such as corn, sugar cane, or grasses.

“Despite common misconceptions, around 90 percent of petrol cars can safely use E10, but it will be more expensive than using regular unleaded petrol (ULP),” Ms Smith said.

“Ethanol-blended fuels carry many positives such as reduction in CO2 emissions, air quality and fuel security, and it’s only right that Queensland drivers are aware of this.”

Ms Smith said it was important motorists had the opportunity to fill up with either E10 or regular ULP.

“We want to maintain a choice for motorists. If your car can take E10, then try it and see the results for yourself,” she said.

Check whether your vehicle is E10 compatible.

Is E10 better for the environment?

Ethanol is a clean burning fuel that produces less greenhouse gases than unleaded petrol. However, when the growing of crops and the production and use of ethanol is compared with the production and use of petrol, the environmental gains may be small, and dependent on the crops and the production methods used.

Is your vehicle E10 compatible?

If you drive a car that operates on unleaded fuel that is under 10 years old then the chances are it will be compatible.

Later model E10 compatible vehicles will have a label in the fuel filler indicating suitability.  It will usually also be shown in the car’s handbook.

You can also use check this website to see if your car can run on E10. 

If compatibility can’t be confirmed, we recommend you don’t use ethanol blends.

What does the term E10 mean?

The term E10 refers to a 10 percent limit on the amount of ethanol in the fuel blend. Ethanol content in Australia is generally limited to 10 percent. There are a few outlets selling a blend with up to 85 percent ethanol which would be sold under the label E85.

Environmental and operability standards for E10, E85 and all fuels in Australia are determined by Australian Fuel Quality Standards.

How does E10 affect vehicle performance?

As ethanol has a slightly lower energy content than petrol, its use will increase fuel consumption. Compared to unleaded petrol, an E10 blend will increase fuel usage by approximately three percent.

What are the problems with E10 petrol?

There are several issues that could arise from use of E10 fuel in incompatible vehicles including:  

  • Fuel system damage due to material incompatibility, and drivability problems such as stalling, vapour locking, flat spotting etc
  • Ethanol has a scouring effect on fuel systems and its use in poorly maintained vehicles may result in filter blockages. Once clean, the system should remain clean with continued use of ethanol-blended fuel
  • Ethanol will absorb small amounts of water, however water content above about 0.5 percent will cause the ethanol, and the water mixed with it, to drop out of suspension and fall to the bottom of the tank. This is called Phase Separation. This will cause poor running, or more likely a no-start situation.

If your vehicle is compatible and regularly serviced there should be no damaging effects of using E10 petrol.

Would you consider switching to E10?