A coalition of three small business associations has issued a call for tougher fuel economy standards to be imposed on Europe’s fume-chugging light commercial vehicles.

EU plans to set a CO2 emission limit for vans of 147 grams per km (g/km) from 2020 are “insufficient,” says a letter to the European Parliament’s rapporteur for CO2 legislation, Holger Krahmer, signed by the European Small Business Alliance, Athlon car lease, and EuroCommerce.

The standard in the EU’s proposed legislation was adopted on the basis of assumptions in 2010 that average CO2 emissions for vans were 200 g/km – and that reducing them would be highly expensive, costing €2,000-€3,000 per van.

But a study by the Dutch TNO consultancy last year for the European Commission, estimated compliance costs much lower – at around €500 per van – and that the 2010 emissions figures was overestimated by almost 20 g/km.

“The vans target could have been slightly more ambitious,” one Irish presidency source told EurActiv. 

The three business associations go further. “On the basis of the latest scientific evidence, and given the potential benefits for both economy and environment, we therefore call on the European Parliament to set a more ambitious 2020 target of 118 g/km,” their letter says.

Road transport, which is not included within the EU’s Emissions Trading System, makes up 12% of Europe’s CO2 output, and is the only source of carbon emissions that is growing, and doing so substantially.

Greenhouse gas emissions from vans surged by 26% between 1995 and 2010 and are expected to continue spiraling upwards, according to a report by another Dutch consultancy CE Delft, commissioned by the green think tank Transport and Environment.

For delivery firms and car leasing companies, concerns about increasing fuel costs from energy inefficient vans – typically around €2,400 a year in diesel alone – are thus augmented by fears of potential emissions-limiting measures that may lurk some way down the line, such as road pricing. 

On the upstream side of the automobile sector, the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA) opposes any tightening of the proposed EU legislation, citing the costs of technological change, market-uptake uncertainties, and industry “cost absorption”

A parliamentary vote on the legislation is expected on 7 May.