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Study on vehicle age & implications of E10

Foreword - by Nic Dakin MP

The impact of transport upon our environment and public health is one of the most pressing issues of our time

and an area that requires considerable attention from policy makers. Transport is the only sector with increasing carbon emissions, contributing over a quarter of the UK’s greenhouse gases which can cause climate change, whilst also being a significant contributor to poor air quality which can cause or exacerbate a number of major health conditions.

There is a clear need for Government to take immediate action and for its policies to reflect the realities of the vehicle fleet on the road in the short to medium term. To date, policies have focused on answers that are several decades in the future without recognising the need to address more immediate or transitionary concerns.

In the cost/benefit analysis accompanying the Department for Transport’s consultation on the Renewable Transport Fuels Obligation, the introduction of E10 – a greener fuel consisting of 10% renewable bioethanol blended with petrol - was shown to be the quickest, easiest and most cost-effective method of reaching the UK’s renewables targets. This was supported by the Transport Minister’s own remarks in the foreword to that consultation response, which stated that “increasing the renewable content of petrol by moving to E10 fuel should make achieving our targets easier and potentially more cost effective, as well as providing an economic boost to domestic producers”.

Nevertheless, the Government has been unnecessarily hesitant to take the action needed to introduce E10. One of the issues that has been at the forefront of this debate is the compatibility of E10 with the existing vehicle fleet, particularly with older vehicles, and what contingencies can be put in place to reassure motorists. In particular, it is essential that any change to fuel composition within the UK does not disproportionately impact upon the poorer and most vulnerable in society.

I am delighted to say that this report illustrates that the number of vehicles unwarrantied for E10 is in a very small and ever-decreasing minority, and are likely those which currently use premium petrol and will therefore be unaffected by any change. Notably, the sociodemographic data within this report suggest that any impact, were it to occur, falls primarily on those with the broadest shoulders – older cars overwhelmingly exist within more affluent households, where they tend not to be the first-choice vehicle.

By contrast, a previously overlooked issue of the ownership of E10-optimised modern vehicles, would suggest that a more significant sector of society, including many of the poorest households, are currently losing out most by being prevented from using the most efficient fuel for their vehicle. This contingent outnumbers those with potential warranty concerns by more than double and should be taken into account to a greater degree than has been the case previously.

I hope that the Department for Transport takes on board the findings of this report and gains the confidence needed to tackle transport emissions through the implementation of E10.

Nic Dakin MP

Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for British Bioethanol

Key Findings

  • Over 95% of the petrol cars currently on the UK road were manufactured since 2000 and therefore likely to be already warrantied for E10 use – this should give the Department for Transport confidence to introduce E10 knowing that any impact will be minimal and that there are suitable alternatives in place

  • Around 2.7 million petrol vehicles (13%) are optimised for E10 use, and are therefore getting poorer performance by being forced to use E5 in the UK. This is more than double the number of unwarrantied vehicles, illustrating that the number of motorists that would benefit from an E10 introduction outweighs the minority that might be inconvenienced by it

  • Older vehicles are significantly more prevalent in richer communities, meaning that any impact of E10 will affect the poorest least and be largely carried by those who do not use them as first-choice vehicles. For example, the number of pre-2000 vehicles in the five richest authorities is 62% larger than those in the five poorest, despite the considerably smaller population. When taking population into account, there are more than four times the number of pre-2000 vehicles per person in the most affluent authorities than in the most deprived, and more than double when analysing per 1000 vehicles

  • The older the vehicle, the more likely it is to be owned by a more affluent household, and these are more likely to be classic or hobby cars rather than owned out of necessity. For example, there are more than twice as many 1970s vehicles and nearly double the number of 1980s vehicles in the most affluent authorities than in the most deprived. Per head of population, there is a seven-fold difference in 1970-74 vehicles between the two demographic sets, and a three-fold difference in 1970s vehicles per 1000 total vehicles

  • There is a larger absolute number of newer vehicles in poorer areas, with nearly half of all petrol vehicles that reside within the five most deprived boroughs being less than seven years old


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