Watch CBS News

Ethanol Gas Emerging As Cheap Gas Alternative For Those With Compatible Vehicles

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- At certain gas stations across Sacramento, one can find gas prices above $6, but tucked away on smaller signs is flex fuel, which is being offered at as much as $2 fewer per gallon.

What is E-85 gasoline? Simply put, it is a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, and it's priced significantly lower than normal gasoline currently because the price of corn is trading below the price of petroleum.

But can you run it in your car?

In the mid-2000s, Chevy and Ford created many cars that were known as flex fuel vehicles. A Ford F-150 or a Chevy Tahoe, for example, are E-85-compatible vehicles.

Gene Karavan runs Autobahn Davis with his business partner Vladimir Maximov and is a devotee of ethanol gas, especially now.

"I fueled up [my Chevy truck for] $89 on a full tank. I have a Toyota [that takes normal gasoline] that I filled up for over $95 and that's only a 19-gallon tank," Karavan explains.

Ethanol gasoline burns hotter which can impact fuel mileage and it is not recommended that non-compatible cars just start filling up with it. But Karavan and Maximov both say it is possible to tune a car to be compatible with E-85.

"You just do a tune-up on your vehicle or a couple of vehicles and enjoy cheap gas," says Maximov.

At UC Davis, Colin Murphy leads the Low Carbon Fuel Policy Research Initiative and is the deputy director for the UC Davis Policy Institute for Energy, Environment, and the Economy. He says that E-85 is a bridge fuel, of sorts. It can be an alternative to fossil fuels and petroleum gasoline but isn't a be-all-end-all solution to impacting climate change.

"It's one of the tools that we have and one of the tools that we can give even more benefit that we have right now," Murphy says.

While the ultimate climate goal, in Murphy's work, is one where electric vehicles are the main automobile in use, he understands that right now, E-85 at its current affordability has the chance to get people moving toward a more sustainable future.

"Without a real strong push from the environmental community to get a lot more corn ethanol in or the automakers, it was a thing that was there. It's providing some environmental benefit and it's just been sitting there for a while now.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.