SEATTLE — Washington state transportation officials on Wednesday announced a new initiative to place electric vehicle charging stations at key intervals along the West Coast’s busiest highway — a development that should allow drivers to cruise the 580 miles from the southern border of Oregon all the way to Canada by the end of the year.

Proponents of the technology hailed it as a major step toward making the zero-emission cars with limited range a viable option for more Americans. “This is exciting because it’s the first time on a long stretch of highway that you have electric charging infrastructure,” said Benoit Colin, of the Washington, D.C.-based Electric Drive Transportation Association. “It’s going to really give confidence to people to drive along those roads.”

Washington’s Transportation Department announced they selected Monrovia, Calif.-based AeroVironment to install nine fast-charging stations along Interstate 5 within six months. The company is also installing eight stations along I-5 in Oregon this year. It’s part of a proposed West Coast Green Highway that would eventually allow electric-car drivers the freedom to travel the 1,350 miles from Canada to Mexico.

Drivers will have to pay to juice up, but the cost hasn’t been determined yet, said Kristen Helsel, vice president of EV solutions at AeroVironment.

The EV Project, a partnership between the federal government and ECOtality of San Francisco, is separately working to install hundreds of publicly available charging stations from Everett to Olympia.

Washington state’s green highway project will install nine stations along I-5 outside of that region — every 40 to 60 miles in the stretch between Everett and the Canadian border and between Olympia and the Oregon border.

“We’ll have one of the longest, strongest EV networks in the nation,” said state Transportation Department spokeswoman Tonia Buell.

State officials and other supporters say the network will make electric vehicles more attractive to consumers and businesses and will be better for the environment. The push toward electric vehicles is seen as a way to reduce pollution as well as the country’s dependence on fossil fuels.

The charging stations along I-5 will likely be located at retail stores, shopping malls, gas stations or travel centers with easy highway access. The idea is to put them in places where drivers can also access services while they’re waiting for their cars to charge, said AeroVironment’s Helsel.

Associated Press writer Gene Johnson contributed to this report.