I-5 corridor West Coast Electric HighwayFrom Mexico to Canada – or from Canada to Mexico, whichever way your heart desires – a West Coast journey in the U.S. is one step closer to reality for plug-in vehicle drivers.

Today, the first part of the West Coast Electric Highway was officially opened in Salem, OR. The idea is to put in enough fast chargers along Interstate 5 to allow EV drivers to just get in their cars and go. The distance between the stations is around 25 miles. Today's announcement means that the first eight chargers, all from Aerovironment, are now operational. Even better, for a "limited time," it does not cost any money to refill your battery. Each charging station includes one Level 2 and one DC fast charger.

As we reported last summer, Aerovironment has been installing the chargers for a while, with the eventual plan being to cover the entire 1,350-mile length of I-5. This should be completed by the end of 2012. Spurs leading off from I-5 – into cities like Portland – are also planned. The Oregon Department of Energy is spending $915,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (i.e., stimulus) funds to build the stations. If you're interested in using the chargers, click here.

Ashley Horvat, who works on the project for the State of Oregon, told CBS News that, "We are hoping we are setting the stage for what will become the first highway, but not necessarily the only highway that is electrified." While no highway in the U.S. has chargers installed along its entire length just yet, a network of chargers at Cracker Barrel restaurants in centrel Tennessee does offer another EV corridor. And Tesla Motors is talking about building a network of SuperChargers for its all-electric vehicles.

Source: Autoblog Green