Leaded fuel

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Should UK Classic Car owners be worried?


7 June 1997

EU Member States are likely to make a small concession to classic and vintage motorcycle and car enthusiasts when they confirm the proposals to ban leaded fuel when they meet on 19/20 June. From the year 2000 until 2005, countries may be allowed distribution of it in small quantities (maximum of 0.5% of the total petrol market). This, it would appear, will only be allowed through special interest groups, such as vintage clubs and federations and is likely to mean that it will no longer be available at petrol stations. The Commission does think, however, that the derogation from the outright ban will be permanent. The price of leaded fuel is likely to rise sharply in these circumstances. The lead content allowed will be 0.005 grams a litre.

The British Government has been standing alone in its fight to preserve availability of leaded fuel, in opposition to the Commission, Parliament, and all other Member States. There has been widespread concern in the British vintage and classic circles, because many older machines are not suited to replacement valve seats allowing use of unleaded fuel. Whilst sympathetic, the British government feels it has made maximum effort and is able to do no more.

The leaded fuel ban in the year 2000 is contained in a 221 page three-part proposal, COM(96)248 final, considering future strategy for the control of atmospheric emissions, the quality of petrol and diesel fuels, and new emission limits for motor vehicles (excluding motorcycles).

One argument against the ban is that up to now lead has been replaced by benzene, which causes cancer. However the proposal also contains limits for benzene, and the Commission says producers can meet the new limits through improved refining processes.

FEM's classic and vintage expert Bob Tomlins has raised our concerns with the Commission. He has also spoken with FIVA, the vintage and classic vehicle association, asking what action if any they are taking and whether they would wish the FEM to make supportive representations. Bob commented, "This is yet another example of classic and vintage riders being caught in the modern legislative machine. Enthusiasts in all countries should be lobbying their governments to ensure that leaded fuel remains widely available. If they don't we could see our cherised vehicles being forced off the road".

There are a number of fuel additives on the market designed to allow use of unleaded in older unmodified engines, although there is widespread doubt about their efficiency. Another option could be the one-off installation of the Broquet Fuel Catalyst into the fuel tank. Developed from World War II technology, the catalyst is a tin-based compound and actually institutes a change to the fuel itself.


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