General Motors has asked for US$2.6bn of low interest government loans to support the development of three new hybrid vehicles, according to a business plan update released this week.

The loan request, which would help develop two spinoffs from its all-electric Chevrolet Volt, raises to US$10.3bn the aid the automaker is seeking under a US energy department programme designed to support development of fuel-efficient vehicles, Reuters reported.

GM said the request for low-interest taxpayer backed loans was made on Monday to the US treasury and was the automaker's third request for loans under the programme.

But it was also the first time GM had confirmed that it intended to move ahead with production of variants of the Volt.

GM executives have said they plan to use the Volt system in other other models to raise volume and bring down the cost of the lithium-ion batteries the vehicles require.

Contingency plans for a GM bankruptcy developed by government advisers would split the automaker into its more promising assets - such as electric car technology - while keeping lower-margin and loss-making operations under court-protection, a person with knowledge of the matter has told Reuters.