The agency says in documents posted on its website Tuesday that it has three reports of fires that began under the rear seat while the cars were parked and unattended. One of the reports indicated that a person suffered smoke inhalation.
Officials began a "preliminary evaluation" of nearly 78,000 Bolts made by General Motors from the 2017 through 2020 model years, according to documents posted on the agency's website.
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The fire damage appeared to be concentrated in the battery compartment area, spreading into the passenger area.
"In the three cases identified, fire damage appeared to be concentrated in the EV battery compartment area with penetration into the passenger compartment from under the rear seat," the documents read.
In one of the complaints from March of 2019, a Bolt owner in Belmont, Massachusetts, said the vehicle was parked in the driveway and plugged into the charger for a little over an hour when the fire began.
Then the owner found smoke billowing from the rear of the 2018 Bolt, apparently from the battery area. It took firefighters about three hours to control the blaze, and the owners reported headaches from the smoke.
GM sent two engineers from Detroit to inspect the charger, and the company bought the Bolt from the insurance company, the owner wrote.
In another fire from July 4, 2020, in Vienna, Va., the owner of a 2019 Bolt told NHTSA that the car was driven to a townhouse development with a private parking lot.
Twenty minutes after arriving, a neighbor rang the doorbell and reported white smoke coming from the back of the Bolt. Firefighters doused the car with water for an hour and left the area, but the fire restarted less than an hour later.
Firefighters returned and put out the fire, and once the car cooled, it was towed to a dealer, where the fire started again. The owner wrote that GM is refusing to investigate the fire because the owner called an insurance company first.
GM spokesperson Dan Flores told FOX Business on Tuesday that the company is cooperating with NHTSA and also conducting an internal investigation into the complaints.
"The safety of our products is the highest priority for the entire GM team," Flores said.
The root cause of the reported fires is still unknown, officials say. The probe will assess the scope, frequency, circumstances, and safety consequences of the incidents, according to the documents.
The probe could lead to a recall.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.