Low ethanol blends – E5 and E10
Ethanol is one of the components typically blended with fossil petrol. The name of the petrol grade and consequently its label on the pump depend on the percentage of ethanol and other oxygenates such as MTBE, ETBE or methanol. E5 contains up to 5% ethanol, while E10 contains up to 10% ethanol.
Most cars (as well as motorcycles and scooters) built after 2000 are compatible with E10. In fact, since E10 became the European test fuel in 2016, new cars are not only compatible with E10, they are optimised to run on it. Cars that are incompatible with E10 are mostly classic, hobbyist vehicles or are older cars. They represent a marginal share of the EU fleet and an even smaller fraction of total EU petrol consumption.
In Europe, most petrol sold corresponds to E5, while E10 represents a growing share of the market. E10 has been progressively rolled out across Europe since 2009 and is currently available in 14 EU countries: Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Romania and Slovakia.
E10 has been a success in the vast majority of Member States where it was introduced, providing for an increase in renewable in the transport energy mix while lowering the GHG footprint of the fuels.
E10 petrol market share in selected Member States (updated Sept. 2020)
EU countries with E10
Maintaining multiple grades of petrol in the EU only leads to
- Market fragmentation
- Consumer confusion
- Increased costs for the fuel distribution
- Less GHG emissions reduction
In light of the ambitious European renewable energy and decarbonization targets, E10 should be fully rolled out in every Member State. A joint declaration by vehicle manufacturers, fuels and alternative fuels representatives stressed that “European fuel ethanol (…) can be blended up to 10% in petrol (E10) and is compatible for use in all new cars produced for many years now. There is no reason why E10 cannot be more widely distributed throughout the EU.”
If you would like to find out more about E10, click here.
Moving beyond E10: high oxygenates blends E85/ED95 and high-octane petrol HOP
Ethanol can also be used in higher concentrations:
E85: with an ethanol level between 65% and 85%, it can be used in specifically designed vehicles called Flex Fuel Vehicles, which can run on E85, petrol, or any mixture of the two, without the need for separate fuel tanks, or in petrol cars which have been adapted. If you would like to find out more about E85, click here.
Looking ahead, ethanol will be needed to reduce emissions of new and existing petrol cars. In order to reduce CO2 emissions and fuel consumption, new petrol cars will rely on high octane petrol (HOP), a fuel that is more resistant to harsher in-engine thermal and pressure conditions, facilitating additional efficiency improvements.
Thanks to its high-octane rating and its renewable energy content, renewable ethanol is one of the best candidates to improve tomorrow’s fuels. Blending 20% ethanol in petrol and reaching 102 octane rating could help save up to 7% tailpipe CO2 emissions in optimized engines compared to E10.