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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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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Prius for the rest of us? Toyota introduces new C class for less than $19,000

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Kiyoshi Ota/Getty Images

With the 2012 North American Auto Show in full swing, automakers are showing more green features and vehicles than ever. From concepts like Volkswagon’s electric Beetle (coined the E-Bugster) to Ford rolling out the much-ballyhooed Fusion update, it’s quickly becoming the greenest show to date.

The big news from the show floor today comes from Toyota, who introduced the new Prius C, a stylish subcompact hatchback that promises up to 53 MPG for around $19,000.

The “C” is for city; given the car’s ability to travel short distances in all-electric mode means it will get the better gas mileage in the city (the aforementioned 53 MPG) than on the highway, where mileage tops out at 46 MPG.

At those prices, we hope they plan on producing a lot of them. The Prius C seems like the ideal vehicle for tooling around Los Angeles, where they’re sure to sell like the proverbial hotcakes.

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