The Carmaggedon that closed Los Angeles's vital 405 freeway ended up being a non-event, but other news broke farther north on the Interstate 5 highway system. The state of Washington made a big move toward its electric highway infrastructure, as state Department of Transportation officials chose charging station manufacturer AeroVironment (Nasdaq: AVAV) to power the initial phase of Washington's electric highway.

AeroVironment will build stations every 40 to 60 miles along I-5 and US 2. When combined with Oregon's "Green Highway" and California's multiple networks, there will be a long stretch of the coast covered with chargers.

Building this infrastructure will help make electric vehicles more viable to range-anxious buyers who want to travel more than, say, 100 miles. Tesla Motors (Nasdaq: TSLA), GM (NYSE: GM), and Ford (NYSE: F) are just a few of the companies that will rely on this infrastructure to drive their new electric vehicle sales. After all, if the only trip you can make is to and from work, then an electric vehicle becomes a lot less practical for a lot of buyers.

AeroVironment is stepping up as a leader in a vehicle-charging market that includes giants like General Electric (NYSE: GE) and Siemens (NYSE: SI). AeroVironment's efficient energy systems segment grew 69% last year, and that momentum should continue, with large deals being signed regularly.

Foolish bottom line
Investing in electric-vehicle manufacturers like Tesla, or battery manufacturers like A123 Systems (Nasdaq: AONE), is a risky bet on the fast adoption of electric vehicles. But until a true charging infrastructure is built, none of these manufacturers will succeed. That's why my top pick for investing in the electric vehicle is AeroVironment and the ever-growing Electric Highway.

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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.