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Caution: Certain Petrol in France Can Severely Damage Your Engine

Holidaymakers driving to France this summer are likely to encounter fuel pumps dispensing E85 petrol. Currently, about 40 percent of French gas stations sell this fuel, and last year saw a record number of liters sold. However, E85 petrol is not the same as regular gasoline; it can cause significant damage to your car unless you have a vehicle with a special flex-fuel engine.

French Cars Extensively Converted

With the various fuel designations at foreign petrol stations, it’s easy to make a mistake—and that can be costly. E85 petrol consists of 85 percent ethanol, made from plants like corn, sugar cane, and sugar beets. While this is environmentally friendly, it is not suitable for most cars. Only 15 percent of E85 is traditional petrol, which makes it unsuitable for regular engines.

E85 Petrol Compatibility

E85 petrol is intended only for cars designed to use it. It is about two and a half times cheaper than regular fuel in France, leading many French drivers to convert their cars by installing special kits or purchasing flex-fuel vehicles. Ford, in particular, offers many models compatible with E85 petrol.

E10 Fuel in the Netherlands

In many other European countries, including the Netherlands, ethanol is also added to petrol, but E10 fuel contains a maximum of 10 percent ethanol. While older cars may struggle with this due to the aggressive and corrosive nature of ethanol, modern vehicles can generally handle E10 fuel well, contributing to reduced CO2 emissions.

Ethanol Effects on Vehicles

Ethanol can dissolve plasticizers in rubbers, potentially causing certain pipes and sealing rings in older cars to become porous. Generally, engines made after 2000 can handle ethanol. However, ethanol attracts moisture, causing the fuel to age faster than normal E5 gasoline. You can check your car’s compatibility with E10 fuel on the website www.e10check.nl.

Expert Advice

While small amounts of ethanol are typically safe for most petrol engines, filling up with E85 is not advisable. “Small amounts of ethanol are no problem for most petrol engines, but just refueling with E85 is not a good idea,” warns an expert from the ANWB. “This fuel is only suitable for cars that have been specially adapted for it.”

In the Netherlands, E85-compatible cars and fuel are scarce, but in France and Scandinavian countries, E85 is common. If you accidentally fill up with E85, contact roadside assistance immediately for advice on whether immediate action is necessary.

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