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Unleaded 88, a.k.a. E15: A different type of fuel could help you save at the pump

Unleaded 88, or E15, can add up to real savings at the gas pump. But is it safe to use in your car?

CLEVELAND — There are a few gas stations in town offering up a new blend of fuel that can offer some savings at the pump. It’s often called Unleaded 88, or E15 as it's known in the industry. We spotted Unleaded 88 costing a full 20 cents less than "regular" 87 octane.

But is it a safe option for you to use in your car? 

First off, what exactly is Unleaded 88?

Regular gas is a mixture that includes up to 10% of ethanol. Unleaded 88 includes more ethanol, up to 15%. By law, an E15 label will be attached and it's usually dispensed from a blue pump. 

"And the difference is minute except when it comes to price," explains Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. "The price of E15, or what's called Unleaded 88, can be 5, 10, and sometimes even 30 cents less than the regular gasoline that you may fill up with."

That can add up to real savings. But is it safe to use in your car? To our surprise, the answer for most people is yes. 

"Most cars can use it according to the EPA. The EPA says if your car is 2001 and newer, you can use it," explains DeHaan.

The EPA has deemed Unleaded 88 safe for over a decade and many car manufacturers have since agreed. But be sure to check your owner's manual if you're not sure. You'll want to verify the minimum octane required and make sure your car can handle 15% of ethanol. 

And remember, this is only for cars and SUVs. 

"You don’t want to use it in motorcycles, small engines and boats," cautions DeHaan. "Only cars. And you also want to double check what your manufacturer says."

Technically, gas with more ethanol could potentially lower your gas mileage by about 2%, but experts say the savings is still worthwhile. Finding this new type of fuel can be tough, however, as only 2% of the stations nationwide carry it. That could change with prices continuing to rise. 

"Not a lot of stations carry this E15 or Unleaded 88 yet, but you may see more stations offering it in the future," says DeHaan.

According to data by the Renewable Fuels Association, it is estimated that national E15 volumes hit a record in 2021, increasing 62% from 2020. So it’s becoming more popular. And now with current gas prices so high, it may be beneficial to see if it’s an option near you.

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