In order to combat global warming, and reduce reliance on supplies of energy from potentially unreliable overseas sources, the UK has agreed to a target of 15% of its energy to be derived from renewable sources from 2020. Ten percent of the switch is planned to come from road transport. In order to achieve this, E10 petrol introduced to filling stations during the next 18 months. While this change in petrol specification is not as significant as, for example, that of the introduction of unleaded petrol, it does have some serious implications for older cars and motorcycles.
Ethanol will attack some materials and most of the potential problems centre on these older vehicles. However, it may be possible to eliminate the problems by replacing vulnerable components such as fuel pipes, carburettor floats and needles and other “rubber or nylon” items exposed to petrol with items made of ethanol resistant materials. Ethanol also attracts water and this could cause fuel tank corrosion (rust). This can be prevented by draining the fuel tank if a machine is to be laid up for a period. Ethanol may also attack the resin in fibreglass fuel tanks and resin based fuel tank sealants (sometimes used in the tanks of classic bikes)*.
The current petrol grade (with up to a maximum of 5% ethanol) will remain available as long as there is demand for it, however there is no legislation to require its continued availability beyond December 2013. Therefore it would seem probable that in parts of the UK it may become difficult find this “legacy grade” petrol (non E10) in the not too distant future.
The MCI has gathered information from its members on the compatibility of their models with E10 petrol, and this may be downloaded here (see ‘Downloads’ bottom right).
For brands not in MCI membership our advice to owners will be to continue to use the legacy grade of petrol and seek guidance from the manufacturer/importer of their motorcycle. In regard to classic motorcycles, owners are recommended to continue to use the legacy grade of petrol.
* for further information see: http://fbhvc.co.uk/legislation-and-fuels/fuel-information/