It may not be capable of space travel, but one California district has found a magic school bus.

The Kings Canyon Unified School District recently launched the first all-electric school bus in the United States, Inhabitat reports.

The bus is a modified SST Trans Tech model based on a Ford E-Series van chassis, with an electric powertrain from Motiv Power Systems. It can carry 25 students and has an estimated range of between 80 and 100 miles.

While this bus costs more than a comparable internal-combustion vehicle, it's expected to save around 16 gallons of fuel per day, which equates to a total annual savings of around $16,000, Motiv Power says.

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A zero-emission vehicle could also have significant health benefits for the children who ride it.

Electric school bus from Kings Canyon Unified School District, California

Electric school bus from Kings Canyon Unified School District, California

Diesel-exhaust emissions are particularly harmful to children because they have a faster breathing rate than adults, and their lungs are not fully developed.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), this can lead to increased risk of cancer and aggravation of respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

The electric bus is part of a pilot project organized by SST, Motiv, and the Californa Air Resources Board (CARB)--the regulatory body in charge of the state's emissions rules.

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CARB contributed $400,000 in cost-saving vouchers to the project, which is expected to grow in scope with the addition of three more buses in the near future.

While the first bus in service is based on a smaller van chassis, future electric vehicles could reportedly be built on the heavy-duty truck chassis used by current full-size internal-combustion buses.

[hat tip: John C. Briggs]


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