Drivers avoiding E-10 fuel amid engine damage fears

NO DEMAND: Owner of South Grafton Liberty service station Robert Cook has stopped selling E10. Photo: Adam Hourigan
NO DEMAND: Owner of South Grafton Liberty service station Robert Cook has stopped selling E10. Photo: Adam Hourigan

CONCERNS about fuel efficiency and potential engine damage are driving Clarence Valley residents to avoid E10 at the petrol pump, prompting a call from NRMA for better education.

The aversion to the ethanol-blended product has resulted in at least one local petrol station owner discontinuing the sale of the ethanol-based fuel.

The NSW Government actively advocates the use of E10 fuel, which can be made in Australia, and in 2011 a mandate was set that required 6% of the total volume of petrol sold in NSW to contain ethanol.

A recent international study by the Texas Tech University showed that while switching to E10 had reduced the availability of regular unleaded, it didn't seem to increase its popularity.

Owner of South Grafton's Liberty service station Robert Cook said his petrol station stopped selling E10 unleaded about a year ago after sales failed to take off in the area.

"It never picked up in volume, so we decided we could better use those tanks to stock ordinary leaded," he said.

"I think the fact that it is cheaper is the reason why some people used it. No one used it because they thought it was doing the world any good."

Junction Hill's Caltex petrol station doesn't stock E10 either.

Owner Michael Fishburn said Caltex decided not to make the switch once the government dropped its policy to make all regular unleaded petrol E10.

"It's two cents cheaper but... you get a better economy with unleaded - I think a lot of customers have figured it out too."

Mr Fishburn said, ultimately, premium fuel was the best purchase.

"Given the choice, I would stay with unleaded," he said.

"(E10) does not agree with small engines and with vehicles that sit for a while. The ethanol and petrol separate over time, which isn't good for the engine," he said.

"Although for someone who's using their car every day, it's probably fine."

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said the motoring body supported the E10 mandate to encourage the take-up of locally grown alternative fuels.

"We need to do more to reduce our dependence on imported oil," he said.

"Every time prices fluctuate and go up, what sort of impact imported oil is having on the family budget? And we don't want our members having to pay more for petrol if they don't have to."

Mr Khoury said an aggressive education campaign was needed to make the public more aware of whether their cars could run on E10 fuel.

"One of the concerns we have is a lot of people think they are getting extra performance from higher grade fuels and spending extra money, when in actual fact the performance benefits are limited," he said.

"Most vehicles built after '96 can run on E10 unless otherwise specified.

"If you're worried about it you can contact the manufacturer and they can tell you."

What is ethanol?

According to the Biofuels Association of Australia, bioethanol - or simply 'ethanol' - is an alcohol made by fermenting the sugar and starch components of plant materials by using yeast.

Ethanol can be used as a fuel for vehicles in its pure form as a replacement for gasoline, but is usually blended with gasoline so as to improve vehicle emissions.

Topics:  e10 ethanol fuel nrma petrol

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