These customers love E85, for very different reasons

Becka Burke was in no hurry. Even though two of her carrot-topped children, ages 2 and 4, scrambled about inside her giant GMC Yukon XL, Burke not only filled up her tank, she stepped back to take a photo of the meter at the pump. Then she went over to snap a selfie with the sign that caused all the commotion last week on a busy corner in Fullerton.

The occasion? E85 ethanol went on sale for 85 cents a gallon on Dec. 16 at the Mobil/Circle K at 2800 East Imperial Highway in Fullerton.

“I’m thrilled!” she said. “I’m just really happy that this station has it.” She spent $24.51 for 28.53 gallons of fuel.

Pearson_Collage“It’s like Christmas!” bellowed David Welton of Long Beach. He filled up his GMC Sierra pickup while munching on a free hot dog. His dog Bruno sat patiently in the cab. “The main deal is the price,” said Welton, who’s been using E85 for about a year. He acknowledged that there are other reasons, and said he was tired of “choking” on the smell of diesel on the freeway.

Pearson Fuels, the San Diego-based fueling retailer and distributor, staged the Fullerton event, complete with balloons and grooves from a local R&B station, to promote wider adoption of E85, a cheaper, cleaner-burning alternative to gasoline. Pearson has partnered with station owners to put E85 pumps at several locations around California.

Throughout the morning, cars came and went: Many of them were flex-fuel vehicles, like the Chevy Silverado, Ford F-150 and Dodge Journey. Other vehicles were converted from gas-only to run on higher ethanol blends.

“There’s almost no reason why you wouldn’t use it, whether it’s a regular grocery-getter or a high-performance car. To me, it just makes the most sense,” said Bryan Haytack of Brea, who filled up his Silverado, then came back a while later with his 2008 Z06 he tuned to run on E85. It normally packs 500-plus horsepower, but “it’s over 600 now,” he said.

Two champions of the horsepower brigade then showed up in their roaring Mitsubishi Evolutions. Albert Kumar and Israel Flores, both 18 and from Santa Monica, drove in on fumes to fill up, heeding a post from fellow speed enthusiast Wongsar Vann. Kumar said on 91-octane premium he gets about 450 hp, but on E85 (which has an octane rating somewhere between 94 and 105), he gets 520 hp.

Pearson-map2“When I do E85, you can feel the power so much,” Kumar said.

Some drivers noticed the marquee sign coming off the 57 freeway, while others knew about the promo from a similar one from Pearson a few miles away in Yorba Linda (birthplace of President Nixon) last week. That’s what drew in Mike Baker of Brea: He dropped by for his first full tank of E85 in his new-used Chevy Tahoe. He noticed the difference in performance right away.

“I think we’re gonna stick with the E85, because it runs a lot better,” he said. “It’s much smoother, and it’s cleaner. And it has 30 percent less emissions.”

During the promo from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., the station sold 1,412 gallons of E85, said Greg Jones of Pearson. The day before, 400 gallons of the fuel were sold.

And the price “spread” between E85 and regular gasoline is still substantial. E85 was priced at $1.99 Monday, compared with $2.79 for regular.

There will be more 85-cent deals to come, however: The next one is at a G&M Chevron in Ontario on Jan. 13. Check the Pearson site for a full list of store openings and promos.

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