* Vans driven long distances, likely to be used more
* Commission position paper expected around year-end
BRUSSELS, Oct 4 (Reuters) - The EU proposes less stringent carbon dioxide emissions limits for vans than for cars and making the van goals as tough would save fuel costs for companies that own them, Dutch consultancy TNO said, adding to criticism the bloc's policy is too timid.
The European Commission in July announced proposals for binding 2020 carbon dioxide limits for cars and vans, which will be debated by member states over coming months. It is also expected to issue a policy document around the end of this year to prepare for limits beyond 2020.
Some in industry, struggling against economic slowdown, have complained that the proposed targets would be an extra burden.
But environmental campaigners say the cost of meeting regulation has been exaggerated and the benefits of using less fuel include lower costs, as well as lower emissions of greenhouse gases.
They are particularly concerned about vans, which they say have a more lenient target than cars and are a growing source of emissions.
The Commission so far has a target of 147 grams per kilometre (g/km) for vans and of 95 g/km for cars.
A report by TNO, commissioned by T&E, a transport and environment campaign group, calculated the true equivalent of the car target for van manufacturers - requiring them to make the same effort as car makers and taking account of extra weight - was 118 g/km.
It found the tougher target would almost double savings from 440 euros to 825 euros ($1,100). Equally, that would double carbon dioxide reductions to an additional 2.7 million tonnes per year of CO2, as emissions are directly linked to fuel use.
Technology improvements would add 2,000 euros to the purchase price of a van, it said, but the reduced fuel bills would mean the extra purchasing cost would be recovered in less than 3 years, assuming a conservative crude oil price of $95 per barrel, compared with well over $100 for Brent now.
T&E programme manager Greg Archer said the 147 g/km target means that vans "could become a technology graveyard" when they should be making use of solutions to improve fuel efficiency, such as streamlining, that have already been developed for cars.
"There is no reason standards for vans should be softer than those for cars," he said.
Jean-Marc Gales CEO of CLEPA, the European Association of Automotive Suppliers, which is involved in consultations with the European Commission, said the existing targets struck the right balance between cost and emissions cuts for now.
But looking beyond 2020, Gales - who ran the commercial vehicles division of GM Europe in 2004 and 2005 - said vans needed particular attention.
"We're going to take a much closer look at vans," Gales told Reuters. "I'm absolutely determined for 2025/2030, we will have a much closer look at the van targets."
Although vans make up only a small percentage of EU new registrations (roughly 12 percent), they are driven much greater distances than cars -- sometimes up to 100,000 km per year, compared with 10,000-12,000 km for the average car, Gales said.
They also have a longer life and are likely to be increasingly popular because they are cheaper than trucks.