The government recently initiated a series of investigations to test whether the batteries used in Chevy's new electric car, the Volt, were capable of catching fire following a car accident. The investigations began after the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) learned that a Volt battery caught fire while being stored in the parking lot of a testing facility. According to reports, the fire was so severe that it caused several other vehicles that were parked nearby to catch fire as well.
During the government's safety investigations, which were conducted by the NHTSA and the Energy Defense Department, at least one Volt battery caught fire after a crash test. Other batteries reportedly began smoking and emitting sparks following side-impact crash tests as well
General Motors, the company responsible for manufacturing the Volt, recently stated in response to the government investigations that the Volt "is safe and does not present undue risk as part of normal operation or immediately after a severe crash." According to reports, no battery fires have been reported by Volt drivers involved in car accidents.
Another reason given by General Motors as to why it believes that its vehicles are safe is that the car's OnStar tracking system is capable of alerting GM to any serious crash that might be capable of damaging the car's battery. GM has also released post- crash protocol that recommends depowering the battery after a crash to reduce the chances that the battery will become unstable.
Source: Washington Post, "Government investigates battery fires in Volt, Chevy's electric car; GM says 'no undue risk'" Nov. 26, 2011