Buy California E85. It’s the good stuff.

Hey Californians, we don’t need to tell you about all the virtues of living in the Golden State. But here’s one you might not have heard: Our state has the most potent, purest blend of E85 ethanol fuel you can buy.

Nationally, E85 fuel contains between 51 percent and 83 percent ethanol. California requires that E85 contain the maximum concentration. E85 that falls short of that threshold is taxed at the same rate as regular gasoline, known as the Motor Vehicle Fuel Tax, which currently is 28 cents per gallon. Full E85 is subject to the “vendor use tax” of only 9 cents per gallon.

This minimum standard provides an incentive for retailers to sell the really good stuff to their customers, 1 million of whom drive a flex-fuel vehicle in California. The shrewdest of whom can tell the difference.


Mark Jager with his Subaru.

Mark Jager, owner of Jager Racing in Southern California, runs his souped-up Subaru WRX STI only on E85, which has an octane rating somewhere between 100 and 105. But during a racing event called Global Time Attack near Atlanta two years ago, Jager ran out of the E85 stash they’d brought from California, so they had to go fill up their jugs at a local retailer that sold E85.

It wasn’t the potent stuff. Jager and his pals could tell.

“When we went out and drove it, it was substantially lower,” said Jager, 32. “It was probably 10 percent lower, that’s how poorly the car performed.”

The loss of horsepower and speed aren’t the only casualties. Jager said engine knock is a possibility when a vehicle tuned for a certain high-octane fuel instead runs on lower-quality fuel, and that could lead to severe engine damage.

Jager says there are ethanol-content analyzers on the market that can help drivers measure the amount of ethanol in E85, including one sold by Cobb Tuning of Austin, Texas.


Jager Racing, photo uploaded from Flickr.

If you don’t want to spring for one of those, however, make sure you fill your tank up at one of the dozens of gas stations throughout California that sell E85. Use our locator to find one near you.

And if you’re in the #OC next Thursday, Aug. 25, drop by this Chevron station in Santa Ana. Already-cheap E85 will be sold for just 85 cents a gallon between 9 and 3!

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