Is E10 fuel a good thing for our roads?

This month, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that the government is considering updating the standard petrol blend in UK garages. Where the current standard is ‘E5’, a form of unleaded petrol with 5% Ethanol biofuel, the new ‘E10’ fuel would have double that amount. The reasoning for this is that increased ethanol content in fuel reduces the overall emissions of vehicles using it. Shapps estimated that this switch would be the equivalent to taking 350,000 cars off the road and, as such, would be a vital step towards the Government’s goal of net zero emissions by 2050.

However, the suggestion has attracted criticism from some motorist groups as they fear E10 will hurt everyday drivers. Studies show that E10 fuel may reduce fuel efficiency, increasing the cost of running a car. Some older cars are incompatible with E10 fuel, and while garages will still stock E5 for the cars that can’t run E10, it is unclear whether E5 will be sold at a premium if no longer the standard. Some also worry that, even for cars that can take E10, the fuel may cause more frequent corrosion damage due to Ethanol’s higher water content.

What has been less examined however, is the impact that a changing fuel landscape may have on traffic on UK roads. For starters, if the concerns of reduced fuel economy are valid, there may be more frequent refuelling stops. Other events that increase throughput at petrol stations, such as shortages or sudden drops in price, can often spill out and cause traffic issues on surrounding roads.

And if the decrease in fuel efficiency is significant and petrol stations aren’t prepared this could cause significant problems. Will an increased number of stops for fuel cause traffic jams as cars slow-down to make these stops? What we do know is that changes in anything traffic-related, from fuelling to new junctions; car-pooling to increased on-street parking can have a knock-on effect on congestion, journey times and quality if life.

At Road Data Services, we can provide detailed information to governments, local authorities, planners and developers through the use of precise traffic surveys, journey time surveys, and similar data accumulation methods. As the conditions for UK drivers change, we can provide you with strong data and analysis to drive evidence-based decision making. Contact RDS today to learn more.

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