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Petrol Pump Rip Off

Q. When is a bargain not a bargain?

A. When you buy fuel in NSW.

The NSW Government insists that filling stations sell at least 2 percent of ethanol in fuel in NSW.

So most fuel outlets sell ‘E10’, that’s fuel with a ten percent ethanol component.

But it is usually 3 cents cheaper than 91 octane regular unleaded fuel, so looks like a bargain and well worth using.

Last year the Sydney Morning Herald undertook a comparison test of the economies of using E10 versus normal 91 octane unleaded.

They drove three identical Toyota Camrys more than 2000kms in a convoy and under a range of conditions to compare the actual costs of each type of fuel.

In their test the E10 fuel returned 9.81 litres/100kms.

The regular unleaded returned 9.4L/100kms.

So over the whole journey the Ethanol fuel cost a total of $276.55 whilst the regular fuel cost $271.56.

Their conclusion was that a bargain wasn’t a bargain at all.

We were intrigued by this so we thought we’d put it to the test with a couple of our staff cars.

Car number one was an eight cylinder Holden that had recorded an average of 12.9 L/100kms over the previous 9,000 kms. on regular fuel, much of the driving on freeways.

So we put E10 in it exclusively from January to mid March and did much the same driving and reset the computer.

Guess what? Our consumption went up to 13.7L/100 kms.

But to be fair we then reverted back to regular unleaded and tested again from mid March to mid May where we did another 3000 kms. and, yes, we went right back to 12.9L/100kms.

So in this case our 3c per litre saving evaporated into an extra cost over 3000 kms of $35.27

We encountered similar results with our Suburu.

Our base reading for the Imprezza 8.0L/100 with plenty of city driving.

We changed to ethanol exclusively in January but did pretty much the same type of driving, only to find our consumption had risen to 8.9L/100kms by the middle of March after re-setting the computer.

We set it back to zero again and reverted to regular unleaded.

You are probably well ahead of us when we say we went back to 8.0L/100 kms over the next 1700kms.

It also meant that over 1700kms. we spent $15 more on the ‘bargain’ fuel than on the 3c more expensive brew.

So on a purely simple conclusion on a cost basis both tests came firmly down in favour of regular unleaded.

Whilst that’s good enough for us the debate still rages on regarding the possible advantages of ethanol based fuel on greenhouse gas emissions. But that’s also subject to huge controversy between governments, fuel distributors and other interested parties.So for the moment we’ll leave that to them.

In the meantime we’re steering away from the E10 fuel pumps and saving some money.