Southern California environment news and trends

Toyota, Johnson & Johnson top world’s greenest brands list

Global brand consultancy firm Interbrand has just released the second annual Best Global Green Brands report, ranking the companies with the most environmentally based missions and accomplishments over the past 12 months. This year’s list finds Toyota at number one (the automaker also topped last year's list), with Johnson & Johnson, Honda, Volkswagen and Hewlett-Packard rounding out the top five. Danone (#9), Ford (#15), Starbucks (#36) and UPS (#43) were the brands that saw the biggest jumps up the chart from last year's list.

The brands are ranked based on two criteria: Performance (“organizations must demonstrate that they source, produce, and distribute products and services in an environmentally responsible manner”) and perception (“organizations must work to build value amongst key audiences by credibly conveying the benefits of their environmental practices”).

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EVS26 finds the electric car industry growing, but tentative, as it looks toward California expansion

Electric Cars

Mae Ryan/KPCC

Drayson racing technologies produces electric cars that can go up to 320 kph and run 15 minutes in a race.

Electric Cars

Mae Ryan/KPCC

The Qualcomm halo utilizes wireless charging for electric vehicles.

Electric Cars

Mae Ryan/KPCC

VIA's onboard electric generator allows drivers to get 100 miles per gallon of gas.

Electric Cars

Mae Ryan/KPCC

VIA's Chevy Silverado can travel 40 miles per charge.

Electric Cars

Mae Ryan/KPCC

The MX30 by Balqon will be used in the Los Angeles ports to transport small loads.


The story a trade show EVS26 can tell the non-industry insider about electric cars is a complicated one. EVS26 is wrapping up today in LA’s Convention Center. I went by yesterday and today for a closer look at what’s going on, something members of the public, car enthusiasts, were able to do on the public day, Sunday, and with test drives outside the convention hall. (The Batmobile-style-Days of Thunder machine above not included.)

What’s interesting is that these guys are trying to guess what kind of inducements they have to provide to get people on board with new technology. What’s even more interesting is that, even after all these years, they’re still guessing.

Sometimes that takes the form of how the electrical current connects up to the car, what kind of a charger you need. Will people just be content to plug their cars into a 220 outlet at home? There’s a worry they won’t, which is why something called wireless charging was a big deal at this show. I saw this technology, and Consumer Reports describes it well:

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Electric vehicle sharing service finds success in San Diego

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Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Rising gas prices continue to reap dividends for electric and hybrid industries. As we reported recently, Toyota reported a massive jump in Prius sales over the month of February, attributed in part to consumers fighting back against the cost of gasoline.

Now a report out of San Diego says that car2go, North America’s first all-electric car sharing service, has registered more than 6,000 users who have taken over 25,000 trips in the company’s 300 vehicles in just the first 100 days of availability.

"At a time when the cost of fuel is reaching record-high prices, San Diegans are looking for ways to reduce their dependence on fuel and for more cost-efficient modes of transportation; and car2go is a very logical choice for them," said Nicholas Cole, president and CEO of car2go in a company press release.

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Rising gas prices drive Toyota Prius sales spike

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Brian Watt/KPCC

Toyota Priuses on the Toyota Santa Monica lot

As American-made hybrids battle for respect (and sales), the numbers are looking great for Toyota hybrids. According to Bloomberg, the Japanese automaker saw an impressive across the board sales increase for the month of February. The statistic that really jumps off the page: sales of the Prius models (including the v wagon) jumped up 52 percent, the largest increase the company has seen in close to four years. Including all Toyota and Lexus branded hybrid vehicles, sales figures were up a full 60 percent.

As reported by Tree Hugger, this marked increase in sales coincides directly with soaring gas costs across the country, citing the AAA-determined average price for a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline at $3.74 as of the last day of February. According to CBS, that’s much less than the Los Angeles average, which as of this week sat at $4.38 per gallon.

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Google designs self-driving cars for California

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

It’s not exactly public transportation, but developers at Google, Inc. are designing technology that allows cars to drive themselves. Democratic State Senator Alex Padilla is so enamored with the plans that he let a Google-designed self-driving Toyota Prius give him a lift to Sacramento to hold a news conference about it.

As reported by the Environment News Service, the reason for the occasion was Padilla’s announcement of his legislation, Senate Bill 1298, which would instruct the California Highway Patrol to start “developing guidelines” around testing and ultimately unleashing self-driving vehicles on California roads.

The Google system utilizes a “laser range finder” on the car's roof, and no less than four radars mounted on the front and back bumpers. A camera keeps an eye on traffic lights.

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