SIGNIFICANT changes in the petrol provided at the UK’s forecourts is expected to prove costly for the nation’s drivers.

E10 fuel is due to replace E5 as the standard grade of petrol on British forecourts from next month.

The hope is it will vastly reduce the carbon emissions emitted from vehicles, the same as if 350,000 cars were taken off the road, according to the RAC.

E10 is already used in many European countries and contains more bioethanol, which is produced from corn, sugar cane and paper production. However while most cars built after 2000 will be compatible with the new fuel, around 600,000 vehicles currently on the road will not be.

Driving body RAC has warned those who do use it accidentally should not panic, as it can be rectified.

The most popular middle-aged vehicles that will not be compatible with the new fuel include older Nissan Micras, Mazda MX-5s, Ford Escorts and all cars built by MG Rover until 2005.

Drivers should check if their vehicles can run on E10 petrol with the government’s E10 fuel compatibility checker. Ethanol is a solvent, which means – in some cases – it can cause damage to rubber and plastic components in cars that aren’t intended to use it.

It is also a hygroscopic, which means it absorbs water from the atmosphere, leading to condensation in fuel tanks if the car remains unused for long periods of time.

This has the potential to lead to corrosion in the tank and carburettor components.

The government says E5 should still be available for some time in most filling stations but it will be a premium, more expensive fuel.

It’s possible some smaller, more rural petrol stations might choose to no longer stock it, however.

E10 should not cost drivers much more than E5 does now, but with E5 only being available in the premium grade, drivers that need to fill up with E5 fuel can expect to pay 12p per litre more than the standard grade.

RAC fuel spokesman Simon Williams said: “With the price of petrol at its highest for eight years, those drivers who have no choice but to use super unleaded E5 petrol will be paying through the nose, as it’s averaging around 147p a litre – that’s 12p more expensive than the current UK average for standard unleaded.

“This will quickly mount up for anyone who has to drive a lot of miles to get to work every week. It’s also probably the case that many of those driving older cars will already be from lower-income backgrounds, so they will end up being even worse off.

“And those with E10 compatible cars will unfortunately find they are getting fewer miles to the gallon as the fuel is less efficient than E5 fuel, due to it containing 5% more ethanol.

“Owners of classic cars need to be particularly careful not to accidentally fill up with E10 and then leave it sat in the tank for long periods, as this will likely lead to expensive damaged seals, plastics and metals.

“But people who fill up a non-compliant car with E10 don’t need to panic. They shouldn’t suffer any lasting damage to their vehicle as long as they put the correct fuel in as soon as possible – when around a third to half the tank is used.

"While using up the fuel they may, however, experience a little poor cold starting and rough running.”