Petrol is the most common fuel used in cars in the UK, followed by diesel. We look at the pros and cons of different types of fuel, plus emission and congestion zone charges.
Unleaded petrol is mixed with bioethanol to make it more environmentally friendly. All petrol contains up to 5% bioethanol, except E10, which contains up to 10%.
Premium unleaded (95 RON) is the standard unleaded petrol available in the UK and is generally used in most petrol cars. Super unleaded (97/98 RON) is the highest-octane fuel that’s generally available though it’s only worth using in high-performance cars.
E10 (95 octane)
E10 is an unleaded petrol that contains 90% regular unleaded and 10% ethanol. E10 petrol is up to 10% renewable ethanol and helps to cut carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
From 1 September 2021, it became the standard grade of petrol in the UK to help the government meet its carbon emission targets. Approximately 95% of petrol-powered vehicles use E10 petrol, and all cars built since 2011 are compatible.
E10 petrol can slightly reduce fuel economy but the difference is minimal and not particularly noticeable for most motorists.
As mentioned above, all UK petrol contains up to 5% renewable ethanol (known as E5). If your petrol vehicle isn’t compatible with E10 fuel, you can still get E5 by purchasing the ‘super’ grade (97+ octane) petrol from filling stations – the pumps will label petrol as either E10 or E5.
As long as your vehicle is compatible with E10 petrol, you can mix the two grades of petrol or fill up with E5 if E10 isn’t available.
Diesel cars offer better fuel economy and produce lower CO2 emissions than equivalent petrol cars and are therefore cheaper to tax.
Diesel is more expensive than petrol, but if you cover a lot of miles, it’s likely to save you money in the long term as it’s generally between 15 and 20% more fuel-efficient than an equivalent petrol car.
However, diesel can produce more nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate emissions than petrol, and new Euro 6 regulations have set a limit on harmful exhaust emissions. The latest diesel engines have a diesel particulate filter (DPF) to reduce emissions. If you only make short trips in your car, the DPF can clog up. The filter prefers regular long journeys at higher speeds to keep it working efficiently.
Congestion zone, ULEZ and LEZ charges
These charges are based on your car’s Euro emissions standard and not on the fuel used.
The Congestion Charge covers central London and is a £15 daily charge if you drive within the Congestion Charge zone between 7:00 and 18:00 Monday to Friday and 12:00 and 18:00 Sat to Sun and bank holidays.
If you enter central London during the specified times, you’ll have to pay the charge if you drive a vehicle with emission standards of:
• Petrol: Euro 4 (NOx)
• Diesel: Euro 6 (NOx and PM)
The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) covers central London and the area up to, but not including the North and South Circular Roads (A406 and A205). It operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, except Christmas Day (25 December).
The ULEZ is expanding from 29 August 2023 across all London boroughs. If your vehicle doesn't meet ULEZ emission standards and isn't exempt, you need to pay a £12.50 daily charge to drive inside the zone. It applies to cars, motorcycles, vans and specialist vehicles (up to and including 3.5 tonnes) and minibuses (up to and including 5 tonnes).
Low Emission Zone (LEZ) covers most of Greater London and applies to lorries, vans or specialist heavy vehicles (all over 3.5 tonnes) and buses, minibuses and coaches (all over 5 tonnes) if they don’t meet the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) emissions standard.
Would you like car advice from a friendly local garage?
Foster & Heanes has 4 garage service centres in and around Fleet: F&H Dogmersfield, VW Autos and Alfanatic in St James's Road, Fleet and Hester's Garage in Fleet town centre. All offer car servicing, MOTs, maintenance and repair for all makes and models of vehicles, including electric, hybrid, classic and vintage cars. Free collection and delivery can be arranged if you live near our Fleet or Dogmersfield service centres. For further information on the garage services we offer, please visit www.fosterandheanesltd.co.uk