I talked in an earlier article about how the electric vehicle (EV) is the transportation of the future. I believe long-term investors are in for a gold rush as the race for EVs heats up. But Foolish investors shouldn't be targeting only the carmakers.

There are other stocks available which might not look good now, but definitely will take off as the EVs start to roll. Here is how you can gain more by starting small in the electric vehicle market.

The story so far
You already know how costly the gas for your car is getting. With the turmoil in the Middle East and the economy going through rough waters, it will definitely not be a pretty picture for car owners across the world. Amid all this chaos and bottlenecks, the electric car starts its journey.

The EV comes with the advantage of being a sweetheart to the environment and also to technology buffs like myself, for whom the main attractions are under the hood and within the dashboard. That there are several EVs scheduled to be launched in the next couple of years reflects the long-term optimism of these carmakers. For an example, just look at Toyota (NYSE: TM) and Tesla (Nasdaq: TSLA) coming together to roll out the RAV4 in 2012. This is no longer a dream concept vehicle.

Great expectations
The demand for electric vehicles is expected to grow at a rapid pace, supported by the public's growing concern regarding greenhouse emissions from gas-powered vehicles and the effects these emissions have on climate change. So it is no surprise that the Department of Energy recently announced $5 million funding for development of electric vehicle infrastructure that will be necessary to support the growth of the EV. That $5 million is a pittance of what will be required to truly and realistically roll out this vehicle on a broad scale. But it's a start.

Where is the money then?
If the EV is to see the light of the mass market, infrastructure for these vehicles will take prime importance. In my opinion, this is precisely where you will find a really big investment opportunity.

San Francisco-based Ecotality (Nasdaq: ECTY) builds infrastructure for electric vehicles in the U.S. and China. Riding high on a $114.8 million recovery act grant from the Department of Energy, Ecotality plans to set up 15,000 commercial charging stations.

AeroVironment (Nasdaq: AVAV) has its own EV charger technology solutions for home and commercial usage. AeroVironment joined hands with NRG Energy (NYSE: NRG) early this month to expand the "eVgo" electric vehicle charging ecosystem. By the end of 2012, they plan to install 70 charging stations across the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Charging stations need to be easily accessible to EV drivers. Perhaps the best method is to use popular devices like smartphones and the Internet to be seen. This idea is definitely in Ecotality's perspective, having recently launched its own mobile app, named Blink Network, that helps people locate charging stations. This app will run on Apple's iOS and Google Android-enabled devices.

Front-runners in this industry are going to make some cash. But, the long-term spoils are going to be showered upon the one or two companies whose standards and products get adopted on a national and perhaps international scale. This is true of all new mass technologies -- there is a lot of disruption and consolidation at the beginning. Then winners begin to emerge. What we're looking at today are those early players. The long-term winners are probably a few years off, but we might just be staring at one of them right now.

Foolish take
The road for investors is mapped out. As electric vehicles kick into hyper drive, infrastructure facilities will have to be pushed up several notches. Companies like Ecotality and AeroVironment are sure to push up revenues while riding on the electric storm in the short term. If things go the way I think they will, this grouping of stocks is going to look delectable as larger business picks up. Investing in them now could mean a very good opportunity of reaping substantial profits in the long run, but be careful. To the winner and the winner alone go the spoils.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.