PLAINFIELD, IN - Duke Energy employees on Sept. 8 got an advance look at the THINK City plug-in electric vehicle at the company's Plainfield corporate headquarters, helping launch an Indianapolis-based pilot project that aims to make the 'electric commute' a reality.

Project Plug-IN, organized by the Energy Systems Network, hopes to put more than 100 plug-in electric vehicles with government and corporate fleets as well as selected individual commuters across the Indianapolis region. The project enlists a wide range of partners to identify and overcome technical challenges arising from EV use.

The Energy Systems Network (ESN) is an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership. It is a nonprofit industry-driven organization focused on the development of clean energy technology.

Earlier this year, THINK announced plans to begin production of the THINK City car in Elkhart, Ind., in 2011. The electric THINK City, which has highway-capable top speed and a range of 100 miles, will be powered by lithium-ion batteries produced by EnerDel in Central Indiana.

Last week, the THINK City was previewed at a special "ride and drive" event for employees of Duke Energy, another Project Plug-IN partner. The employees of Duke and other partners may have the opportunity to purchase THINK City vehicles or drive them as part of their corporate fleets.

"Duke Energy strongly supports the development of plug-in electric vehicles to cut emissions and fuel costs while enhancing energy independence," said Michael Reed, president of Duke Energy Indiana. "We're focused on developing 'smart grid' technologies to support these vehicles, so observing the driving and recharging habits of Hoosiers through Project Plug-IN will be invaluable for us."

Indiana Secretary of Commerce Mitch Roob was also on hand to emphasize the economic impact of electric vehicles for the state.

"Thanks to the vision of Governor Mitch Daniels, Indiana has a coordinated approach to its quest of leadership in electric vehicle development and production. By bringing together business, community and supply chain leaders, Indiana continues to capture the kind of momentum that will drive economic growth and job creation to our state," said Roob.

In addition to making a limited number of vehicles available for fleets and individuals, Project Plug-IN will spearhead the placement of residential and public charging stations across the region.

"Our goal with Project Plug-IN is nothing short of a seamless transition for consumers from gas-powered to electric cars," said Paul Mitchell, president and CEO of the Energy Systems Network. "Making this happen in Indiana first has required collaboration among a wide array of public, private and regulatory organizations, including partners like Duke Energy and THINK -- the response so far has been tremendous."

As Project Plug-IN continues to gain momentum, more potential partners are weighing their involvement. Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental also look forward to the possibility of working with Project Plug-IN.

"We are always excited about opportunities to further our ongoing commitment to embrace alternative technologies and bring viable solutions to the marketplace," said Will Withington, vice president and general manager of Enterprise Holdings, which operates the Enterprise Rent-A-Car and National Car Rental brands. "We are thrilled that the opportunity has presented itself in Indianapolis through Project Plug-IN, and we look forward to the possibility of future partnership opportunities."

For THINK, Project Plug-IN provides a test market in close proximity to its manufacturing operations in Elkhart and major suppliers like EnerDel.

"Project Plug-IN is a truly unique and innovative program that brings together a wide cross-section of industry stakeholders, including electric utilities, electric car and battery manufacturers and government agencies," said Richard Canny, THINK CEO. "We're pleased to be a part of this project, and we're confident that seeing the THINK City in action is the best way to spark consumer demand."

In addition to THINK, Duke Energy and EnerDel, Project Plug-IN partners include Indianapolis Power & Light, Nissan, Smart USA (which recently launched sales of its fully electric model in Indianapolis), the city of Indianapolis, the state of Indiana, Cummins, Bright Automotive, Delphi Corp., IBM, Simon Property Group, Purdue University, and the Rocky Mountain Institute.