Ten sites opened in the state this week where drivers can recharge electric cars on Interstate 5 and Highway 2.

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Seven roadside charging stations on Interstate 5 and three on Highway 2 opened Wednesday, giving people the option to drive their electric cars across Washington state.

The free sites are funded by a $1.5 million federal stimulus grant, using equipment by AeroVironment, a publicly traded company.

“Today moves us a giant step closer to the day when we can drive our electric cars from Bellingham, Washington, to San Diego, California, along Interstate 5, secure in the knowledge we can quickly recharge our vehicles along the way,” said a statement by Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire.

Ten high-speed charging stations opened in Oregon earlier this year, mostly south of Eugene, also near I-5, on what is being called the West Coast electric highway. California is also expected to develop I-5 stations.

There are only about 1,500 all-electric cars registered in Washington state that can travel at highway speed, not counting the dual-mode Chevy Volt or the Toyota plug-in Prius, which use both gasoline and electricity. That’s a small fraction of the total 6.9 million motor vehicles.

New stations are in Blaine, Bellingham, Burlington, Tumwater, Centralia, Ridgefield and Vancouver, Wash., on I-5, and in Sultan, Skykomish and Leavenworth on Highway 2. Eight sites (except Vancouver, Wash., and Blaine) have a direct-current fast charger suitable for all-electric cars, such the Nissan Leaf or the Mitsubishi i-MiEV.

“If you’re at 20 percent state of charge and want to go to 80 percent, it takes about 25 minutes,” says Kristen Helsel, vice president of electric vehicle solutions for AeroVironment.

All 10 have a slower Level 2 charger, similar in power to refueling at home, or suitable to “top off” a dual-mode vehicle, AeroVironment says.

Most sites are near but not on the highway, at “places people want to dwell,” said Helsel. The site in Burlington is at a retail outlet mall. The detailed list is at evsolutions.avinc.com/services/subscriber_network/57.

Nationwide, the U.S. and private partners are investing $230 million to promote electric vehicles and charging infrastructure, through the EV Project in a total six states, including Texas, Tennessee and Arizona.

Mike Lindblom: 206-515-5631 or mlindblom@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @mikelindblom.