This month, a new type of fuel is being introduced across the UK. E10 fuel contains 10 per cent bioethanol, and will replace E5 fuel as the standard unleaded petrol at most forecourts.

But research from the RAC has found that more than a quarter of drivers (27 per cent) have not checked whether their cars are compatible with the new type of fuel, and 24 per cent are unaware that the fuel is being introduced at all.

There are an estimated 600,000 vehicles on UK roads that are incompatible with the new fuel – mostly those built before 2011. The government has launched an official online checker, although some people had problems accessing this on September 1.

Those with incompatible cars may have to use super unleaded fuel instead, which can cost 12p more per litre than standard unleaded, and is not as widely available. Consumers fear the increased cost, and are worried about having difficulty finding E5 fuel in future – while others are concerned about mistakenly filling up with E10, which could damage non-compatible vehicles.

Non-compatible vehicles filled up with E10 will still run, but the fuel may cause damage to seals, plastics and metals over a longer period as they may not be equipped to deal with bioethanol’s corrosive properties.

There may also be an impact on the resale value of cars which are not compatible with the new fuel, which is already in use in many European countries. It’s estimated that the switch to E10 will cut CO2 emissions by 750,000 tonnes a year – the equivalent of taking 350,000 vehicles off the road.

“E10 petrol has already started appearing on forecourts to replace the old E5 blend, and that process will continue at pace in the coming weeks,” says RAC head of policy Nicholas Lyes. “But while the vast majority of drivers of petrol cars aren’t affected, a sizeable minority will be and the only way to be sure is to use the official online checker. Those that discover their cars aren’t compatible will unfortunately need to seek out and pay for a hefty premium for E5 super unleaded fuel instead.

“The cost of doing this could quickly add up for people who need to use their cars regularly, something our research shows all too plainly. Drivers who will continue to rely on E5 will also need to make sure the filling station they're visiting stocks the fuel in the first place, or risk running out of fuel and having to call on their breakdown provider."

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