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Electric vehicles: Chevy Volt battery fire triggers probe

Electric vehicles' safety was called into question after batteries on the Chevy Volt caught fire in a crash test. The federal government is investigating batteries on various electric vehicles.

A 2012 Chevy Volt electric car is seen at the sixth annual Alternative Transportation Expo and Conference (AltCar) in Santa Monica, Calif., earlier this fall. Federal officials are investigating the safety of batteries on electric cars after a Chevy Volt caught fire following a crash test.

Lucy Nicholson/Reuters/File

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Federal safety officials have launched a probe into whether the batteries in Chevrolet's Volt plug-in hybrid sedan are prone to fires.

The probe by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration was launched after a Volt caught fire following a crash test.

The Associated Press, which learned of the probe from a federal safety regulator, said the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will be looking at the safety of batteries from several makes of electric vehicles.

The Volt is designed to run purely off its batteries for about 40 miles. When the batteries run low, a gasoline engine kicks in and functions as a generator, powering the electric motors and extending the range of the sedan to more than 300 miles.

Other electric cars currently for sale include the Nissan Leaf and the Tesla Roadster. Several other automakers, including Toyota, Ford and Mitsubishi, plan to launch sales of electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids in the coming months.

General Motors Co., which owns the Chevrolet brands, said the Volt is safe.

"We are working cooperatively with NHTSA as it completes its investigation. However, NHTSA has stated that based on available data, there's no greater risk of fire with a Volt than a traditional gasoline-powered car," said Jim Federico, General Motors chief engineer for electric vehicles.

"Safety protocols for electric vehicles are clearly an industry concern. At GM, we have safety protocols to depower the battery of an electric vehicle after a significant crash," he said. "We are working with othervehicle manufacturers, first responders, tow truck operators, and salvage associations with the goal of implementing industry-wide protocols."

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GM shares fell 19 cents, or about 1 percent, to close at $22.51 on Friday.


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