Plug Power Inc. has announced that Central Grocers has placed an order for 182 next-generation GenDrive fuel cell units to operate its electric lift truck fleet in Joliet, Illinois.

In addition, Central Grocers has signed a 5-year GenCare service contract with Plug Power for the GenDrive fleet.

Central Grocers has been operating GenDrive as the sole power source for its class-2 and class-3 lift truck fleet since 2009 at its Joliet facility that was built from the ground up with a hydrogen infrastructure in place. The new units will be replacing the original fleet after operating for more than two million hours. Central Grocers was the first grocery warehouse of its kind in the world, where all goods were handled with hydrogen fuel cell-powered lift trucks. The new units are expected to be operational at Central Grocers by the third quarter of 2014.

“This is a success story for Plug Power, as nothing validates our solution better than a satisfied customer who orders more,” said Andy Marsh, CEO at Plug Power. “Central Grocers was an early adopter that has been reaping the benefits of GenDrive fuel cell solutions, and will now see additional benefits through our GenCare services.”

“Hydrogen fuel cells run longer and maintain consistent power as they operate and are refueled more quickly than batteries,” said Ken Nameth of Central Grocers. “Our operators are pleased with the lift trucks powered by GenDrive, and management has been impressed by the high levels of productivity within our facility.”

Plug Power has a history of customers who have reinvested in the GenDrive solution. Central Grocers is added to a list that includes such customers as Walmart, BMW, Kroger, Wegmans and Bridgestone.