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E85 'flex-fuel' offers cheaper alternative

March 15, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
The new Chevrolet Impala is one of many that are classified as "Flex Fuel" vehicles, designed to run on E-85 -- a blend of mostly crop-based ethanol that costs less than gasoline."I took the imitative and started with bio-diesel and moved onto E85 and I realized I'm filling a niche in the market that is not being filled," said Kristopher Moller, owen of Conserv Fuel.

Conserv Fuel sits on a busy corner in Brentwood and sells both bio-diesel and, since December, E85. The word seems to be getting out.

"I was over in West L.A. and I was going to Malibu but I drove here out of the way to fill up," said Nathan Jones.

"It's the only reason I bought the car. I wouldn't have bought a truck if it didn't have the option of flex-fuel along with the E85 ethanol," said Mateo Bradford.

Many cars and trucks built by GM, Ford and Chrysler can use E85. A sticker inside the fuel door or information in the owner's manual will denote a compatible engine.

On newer General Motors flex-fuel vehicles there's even a bright yellow fuel cap.

GM and other domestic automakers like E85 as a fuel because it's easy to convert a car to run on it. Still, there are downsides to using E85.

A car won't go as far per tank on the alternative fuel, usually about 15 percent less, which somewhat negates the price advantage.

And critics contend that using crops for fuel isn't an overall benefit to the environment.

"There are issues with both of these fuels, but in my opinion and many of our customers' opinion, it's a better option for now," Moller said.

As drivers look for ways to dodge the high cost of filling up, this gasoline alternative can look pretty appealing if you happen to be on the Westside of Los Angeles.

This past week, for example, a gallon of unleaded gasoline in West L.A. was going for $3.65 a gallon. A gallon of biodiesel went for $4.17. E85, on the other hand, sold for $3.19 a gallon.

For more information on Conserv Fuel in Brentwood, click here.

To find out if your vehicle is E85 compatible, click here.

 

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