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said low-emission Chevrolet Volts are on their way to California, where drivers will be able to drive them in the state's car-pool lanes, even without passengers.

Customers will also qualify for a $1,500 state rebate.

New Volts -- now eligible for single-person use in car-pool lanes -- are on their way to California, GM says.

An inability to qualify to be driven in California car-pool lanes has been a drag on Volt sales, given that California is the largest auto market and its drivers are particularly prone to buy fuel-efficient cars.

Volt sales have also suffered since regulators said in November that they were conducting a safety investigation because a crash test led, three weeks later, to a battery fire. That investigation was halted after the automaker made modifications in the frame protecting the battery. Volt sales totaled just 603 in January, down from 1,529 in December.

Initially the Volt's warranty and emissions rating didn't meet California carpool lane standards. But now GM is shipping cars, modified for California use, with a low-emissions package. The cars, made at GM's Detroit Hamtramck plant, are scheduled to begin to arrive next week at more than 140 participating Chevrolet dealerships in California.

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Commuters who use car-pool lanes in Southern California save an estimated average 36 minutes a day, or about a third of their total driving time, GM said.

California has more than 1,400 miles of "high-occupancy vehicle" lanes. Once restricted to vehicles with two or more occupants, the lanes are now open to single-occupancy use by drivers of advanced, low-emission vehicles.

In mid-afternoon trading, GM shares were up 25 cents, to $26.80. The shares are up 28% this year.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

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