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* EU parliament proposal wants speed limiters for vans
* Vans' top speed would be set at 120 kmh
* Proposal also weakens planned 2020 target for van CO2
By Pete Harrison
BRUSSELS, May 4 (Reuters) - Vans and light trucks should be fitted with mandatory speed limiters in the European Union to prevent them exceeding 120 km per hour and improve their fuel efficiency, according to an EU report.
The recommendation comes in a paper setting out the European Parliament's preliminary stance as the EU starts debating cuts to carbon emissions from vans.
"One ... way to tackle the problem would be to have mandatory speed limiters for light commercial vehicles," says the document, seen by Reuters.
"These vehicles are almost exclusively used for commercial purposes and do not need to exceed 120 km per hour," it adds.
Europe is targeting vans two years after setting mandatory fuel efficiency standards for cars in a hard-fought battle that pitted environmentalists against powerful carmakers in France, Germany and Italy.
The United States also set fuel efficiency standards for cars last month, demanding a 42 percent improvement by 2016.
"The technology is available to do this, it is a cheap and effective way of immediately lowering emissions and many commercial organisations retro-fit them to their vehicles," says the report.
British liberal politician Chris Davies welcomed the speed limit, but said the proposal did not go far enough to improve fuel efficiency.
"Vans are a tool for business and commerce, and we should be trying to reduce the costs for business," he said. "If we don't do better, we will leave business less efficient.
The European Commission has proposed cutting van emissions by about a third to 135 grams of carbon dioxide per km by 2020, but the parliament report recommends easing that target to 150 grams.
The car industry says the targets are too tough as vans are meant to store things and cannot be very aerodynamic.
But critics argue the industry always overstates the challenge and has already made efficiency gains of between 11 and 15 percent with their latest models. [ID:nLDE6290W1]
"The car industry has shown that it can rapidly reduce emissions once an obligation is in place," said Franziska Achterberg of Greenpeace. "It won't need 10 years to reach 150 grams for vans."
The Commission proposed manufacturers that fail to meet the standards should face penalties of 120 euros per gram of CO2 per car, but the parliament's report proposes easing that to 95 grams, the same level already set for cars.
"The Commission proposal does not contain any justifications for higher penalties," it says. (Editing by David Brunnstrom and James Jukwey)