Oslo-based electric vehicle maker THINK has started production of the THINK City EV at its new plant in Elkhart, Indiana. The company hasn’t wasted anytime getting up to speed either, with the first 15 vehicles delivered to the State of Indiana for use in its government fleet this week. THINK aims to build 300 THINK City EVs at the facility by the end of the year, with plans to scale up production to build 2,500 vehicles for the American market in 2011.

The THINK City is a 3-door, 2+2-seater, highway-capable, all-electric, zero local emission car designed in Scandinavia for fleet applications and urban commuters. It has a top speed of 68 mph (110 km/h) and an in town range of 100 miles (160 km) on a single charge. It can accelerate from 0-31 mph (50 km/h) in 6.5 seconds and from 0-50 mph (80 km/h) in 16 seconds.

The short time between the Elkhart plant opening and the first vehicles rolling out the door is slightly less impressive when you learn that the plant receives partially assembled vehicles from contract manufacturer Valmet Automotive in Finland, which produces THINK vehicles for the European market. The vehicles are completed at the Elkhart plant with the installation of electric drive trains and lithium-ion batteries from Indianapolis manufacturer Erer1, Inc.

THINK will replicate the current production line, tooling facilities and processes used in Finland and plans to increase the current 25 person local workforce to more than 100 by the end of next year and more than 415 by the end of 2013.

The first 15 vehicles produced at the plant were delivered to Indiana’s Department of Administration on Dec. 16 and will be used principally by the Department of Natural Resources in the state’s park system.

“THINK found a great place to establish its business in Elkhart, and we’re proud to be the first customer,” said Governor Mitch Daniels, who presided over the vehicle presentation. “We believe that the coming era of electric cars, like the THINK City, will find its home here in Indiana.”

By early 2011, the Project Plug-IN initiative organized by the Energy Systems Network (ESN) will place 100 or more electric vehicles and supporting charging infrastructure with government and corporate fleets, as well as selected individual commuters, across the Indianapolis metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, THINK plans to roll out retail distribution in select U.S. cities in the second half of 2011, coinciding with the plans to expand the production line at the Elkhart plant. While the THINK City is currently available in a number of European and Scandinavian countries, the company is also looking to expand availability into Asia and South America.