Electric ice resurfacer Zamboni - (C) Electric Autonomy Canada

Visitors to Medicine Hat’s Canalta Centre can look forward to something new in 2020 — an electric ice resurfacer that promises clean air as well as a clean skate

If you’re looking for hockey hotbeds, it’s hard to beat the Canalta Centre in Medicine Hat, Alta. Opened in 2015, the 7,100-seat arena is home to the Medicine Hat Tigers, a perennial powerhouse in the major junior Western Hockey League. In the Tigers’ 49-year history, the team has had at least 100 future NHL players on its roster.

It’s fitting then, as the team marks its 50th anniversary in 2020, that the city of Medicine Hat plans to use that arena venue to showcase a special new addition to its municipal fleet — an electric-powered ice resurfacer, one of two it plans to buy later this summer.

First electric vehicles

These machines will be the city’s first electric vehicles, says Justin Brunelle, acting manager of fleet services, so putting one in Medicine Hat’s flagship arena makes sense on two levels: the emissions-free power will ensure cleaner air for the thousands of people in the rink, and it also gives the city a prominent platform to show local citizens its “trailblazing” efforts to convert municipal vehicles to cleaner power sources.

Indoor emissions from conventional internal combustion engines (ICE) used in most ice resurfacers today are an issue that municipalities and arena managers wrestle with right across Canada.

Canalta events centre ice hockey arena
Medicine Hat’s Canalta Centre. Photo: Canam Buildings

“It’s something we deal with regularly,” says Brunelle. “We have a lot of expertise within our recreation department to make sure [our conventional resurfacers] run properly, that ventilation systems are in place. But one of the big selling features [of the electric machines] is this eliminates the issue. We’re no longer worried about it from a health and safety perspective.”

Medicine Hat will purchase the new machines — which Brunelle says cost $20,000 to $30,000 more than comparable non-electric resurfacers — with assistance from the Alberta Municipal Climate Change Action Centre’s Electric Vehicles for Municipalities Program. That program, introduced earlier this year and slated to run until early 2023, provides rebates for Alberta municipalities on a wide range of EVs — including ice resurfacers, which qualify for up to a $30,000 rebate per vehicle.

A good fit

Brunelle says the budget for two new resurfacers had already been approved when he first learned of the EVM program.

“I brought it to the table and said, ‘What do you think about going electric?’” he recalls. “There were definitely some questions about what this means as far as additional infrastructure, about operations. We were able to rally our relevant people together and get those questions answered and found that this was a good fit.”

When Brunelle spoke with Electric Autonomy Canada, he was preparing to issue the tender for the machines. He expects that to take a few weeks and their order to be submitted by the end of August. The manufacturers that serve the Canadian market are Resurfice Corp., of Elmira, Ont. (Olympia brand), Zamboni Co., in Brantford, Ont., and Joe Johnson Equipment (Engo brand) of Innisfil, Ont.

Delivery of ice resurfacers can take months. Brunelle expects “to be putting these guys into service by the middle of next year at the latest.”

“It’s going to be real interesting … focusing more on mobility and the way people get around versus just traditional kind of fleet concepts where it’s transactional

Justin Brunelle, Acting Manager of Fleet Services, City of Medicine Hat

Exciting future

As a municipal fleet manager, he says he’s also excited by the overall growth in the EV market and changes in store in the near future.

“It’s going to be a real interesting three or four years as the market changes, the technology evolves and to see how the general acceptance of the concept takes off,” Brunelle says.

“I think it’s going in the right direction. It’s going to cause some major changes in the way we do business. It goes hand in hand with focusing more on mobility and the way people get around versus just traditional kind of fleet concepts where it’s transactional, a ‘You need a truck, I get you a truck’ kind of thing. I’m really excited to be part of things at this time and going forward.”

Note: This story was revised Aug. 7, 2019, to add new information.

1 comment
  1. Fantastic. That’s great. I am so very happy to hear that a city can do this for one of the few things that people wouldn’t think about. Especially when it affects the air quality directly inside the arena. Now no emissions and no noise. Just cleaned ice.

    Well done. ?

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