Southern California: Some drivers may be able to refuel more cheaply with E85 fuel when gas prices are high

LOS ANGELES (KABC) — You may find sticker shock at certain gas stations, but vice versa. Can a price of $3.29 a gallon be real today? Yes, but it’s for E85, not petrol.

“E85 is a fuel blend that contains up to 85% ethanol,” said Megan McKernan, manager of the AAA Automotive Research Center in Los Angeles.

E85 is made from corn and its largest market is in the Midwest, where the corn is grown. I did a story about E85 14 years ago at the only metro Los Angeles station that sold it, Conserv Fuel in Brentwood. Today it is available at over 300 gas stations in California and is distributed with gasoline. But you need a special vehicle to use it.

“Flex-fuel vehicles are built to handle this mix of up to 85% ethanol,” McKernan said. “It just depends on how the engine is made.”

Typically from domestic brands and often from models that are likely to end up in fleets. A word of caution: fuel economy drops slightly when using E85 instead of petrol. But with such a big difference in price today, it’s worth checking to see if your vehicle can drive it.

Many flex-fuel vehicles that can run on E85 have a special yellow fuel cap and/or label that says it’s okay to use either E85 or gasoline. If in doubt, check the instruction manual. And if your car or truck isn’t designed to use ethanol fuel, you don’t want it either. You could end up with a huge repair bill.

“Don’t just look at that price and say ‘oh great, I’ll make a deal’ because it could cost you later. You could end up with an engine failure,” said AAA’s Megan McKernan

We’ve checked with a few vehicle manufacturers and you probably won’t find many new E85-compatible models at dealerships in California. Most often they are sold here to large fleets. However, there are a number of vehicles with the telltale yellow gas cap that have been built over the years. If you have one and can confirm that it’s still E85 compatible, you might want to look for the specific pumps with the yellow handles and take advantage of what is now a significant bargain.

“Right now that gas prices are so high, it might be more economical for you,” McKernan noted. “Just realizing you’re going to get fewer miles on this tank.”

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Southern California: Some drivers may be able to refuel more cheaply with E85 fuel when gas prices are high

Laura Coffey

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