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Volt owners offered free loaner cars from GM

DETROIT - General Motors says it will offer free loaner cars to Chevrolet Volt owners if they're concerned about the cars catching fire.

The move comes after last week's announcement that the government is investigating fires involving the Volt's lithium-ion batteries. The company says it will contact the owners to reassure them that the cars are safe. But it's making the offer to make sure Volt owners don't lose confidence in the cars.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says a Volt battery pack that was being monitored after a crash test caught fire on Thursday. The agency says another battery that recently was crash-tested gave off smoke and sparks.

More from MoneyWatch: Government probes Chevy Volt battery fire risk

The latest fires are in addition to a battery fire in a crash-tested Volt six months ago.

NHTSA said it had no reports of fires from real-world crashes. And the agency said in a statement: "NHTSA continues to believe that electric vehicles have incredible potential to save consumers money at the pump, help protect the environment, create jobs and strengthen national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil."

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In its statement, NHTSA offered some advice for current owners of electric cars involved in accidents.

-- Exit the vehicle carefully if possible just as in a gasoline-powered car, which of course also poses fire danger in a crash.

-- Emergency responders should take note if a vehicle is electric and disconnect the battery pack if possible.

-- Tow-truck operators and salvage yards should store damaged electrics outside, not inside a closed building. (All fires in the NHTSA tests ignited weeks after the initial damage).

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