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Guest Blogpost: The Magic School Bus

Magic School Bus - Blog headerA note from Green Energy Consumers Alliance: We are big fans of electric school buses. You might've read our recent blogpost about the electric school buses coming to Massachusetts and Rhode Island thanks to new grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Today, we're excited to share a guest blogpost from Block Island about their new electric school bus, which was donated by the Solar Initiative (not funded by the EPA). Many thanks to Cindy Davis of the Solar Initiative for this post!

Block Island's Magic School Bus

For many of us, the Magic School Bus was an exciting ride into the future. The PBS series premiered in 1994 (the Netflix reboot in 2017) and made learning about science a fun and engaging adventure. Miss Frizzle, the exuberant science teacher who captained the Magic School Bus, believed in making scientific concepts more approachable to students. I felt a bit like Miss Frizzle last week when I had the opportunity to ride along on Block Island’s very own
magic school bus.

Block Island’s magic school bus is a state-of-the-art, ADA-compliant, zero-emission, electric school bus. I can’t help but think that Miss Frizzle and her students would be amazed by this futuristic ride. The new bus comfortably seats 36, at two students per bench seat, but can accommodate more students when sitting three per seat. The electric bus has a range of up to 120 miles on a charging time of under three hours. This bus also has V2G (vehicle-to-grid) capability, which means that the power stored in the batteries can be used to help shave peak island electricity usage. The electric bus will be easier and less expensive to run since there is no engine or transmission to maintain.

The bus arrives on the Island

It was before sunrise last Thursday when I arrived at the school to hitch a ride on the Island’s magic school bus. The new bus is almost indistinguishable from the old bus - except for the green bird painted on the side. Indistinguishable that is until it was turned on. With the flip of a switch, the driver started the bus and it was noticeably, eerily quiet. No roar, no gurgling engine, just an indicator that the bus was on and the air was being pumped into the brakes. This took a couple of minutes and then we were off on our run. The morning run takes 45 minutes to make a loop around the Island. During this time, we made 10 stops, picked up 12 kids, and drove about 15 miles. On newly paved roads, the bus was whisper quiet. Gone are the days when you could hear the bus coming from way down the road. Gone also is the exhaust smell and clouds of fumes as the bus idled awaiting passengers. There was no smell, no fumes, absolutely nothing being sent in noxious clouds to the beautiful blue sky. At the end of the morning ride, the driver plugged the bus back in and it went from 30% battery charge to 100% in about 10 minutes.

But what did the kids think? Granted, it is difficult to get much conversation out of kids who rose before the sun, but there was an overall sense of enthusiasm. They all commented that the electric bus was ‘cool’, ‘clean’, and ‘quiet’. Some appreciated the seat belts and knew about the safety precautions. Others mentioned the environment and how proud they were to be on an eco-friendly bus.

The electric school bus was donated to the Block Island School by the Solar Initiative. The Solar Initiative is dedicated to decreasing the use of fossil fuels on Block Island while encouraging the adoption of renewable energy technologies. With only the third electric school bus in the state of Rhode Island, we are setting an example of sustainability and concern for the environment that other communities will follow. The electric bus will be used as a curricular tool at the school to help students learn about environmental impacts and sustainability. As with The Magic School Bus series, this bus will help make science more approachable for students. With this type of community commitment, the future's looking brighter thanks in part to the Island’s magic bus.

As Miss Frizzle would say, “Okay bus, do your stuff!"

The Solar Initiative (tSI) is a group of concerned Islanders that have been brought together by a generous donor to make a real difference in the long-term sustainability of Block Island. The focus and goal of tSI is to lessen dependence on fossil fuels while helping to educate people on living more sustainably and encouraging the adoption of renewable energy technologies. In order to fulfill this mission, tSI offers various subsidies towards the purchase and installation of renewable and high-efficiency technologies and is also instrumental in funding larger Island projects. In 2021, the Solar Initiative donated the funding for an electric bus and V2G charger to be used by the Block Island School. The bus was delivered in late October 2022. Cindy Davis, a retired science teacher and Program Director for the Solar Initiative, rode along as the electric school bus made its rounds around Block Island. For more information on the Solar Initiative go to or contact Cindy directly at