A European Parliament panel has thrown out plans for speed limiters on vans and light trucks.

Parliament was looking to reduce costs for automakers, which suffered a 13% hit to sales in 2009 due to the economic crisis. But it was accused of overlooking the EU's own climate protection goals and the interests of millions of small businesses that would have benefited from efficient vans to save on fuel bills.

"Speed limiters would have reduced CO2 slightly, and they would have reduced the curse of the speeding 'white van man' on motorways and autobahns," said British politician Martin Callanan, who was coordinating the parliament's stance on vans.

Callanan said the EU had not yet finished debating the new rules and that the mandatory devices, which limit the top speed of vans to 120 kmh (about 80mph), might well be proposed again.

The parliament's environment committee approved the main goal of the regulation - cutting van CO2 emissions by around 14% to an average of 175g/km by 2016.

But that target is widely seen as unambitious, given rapid gains in efficiency recently by van makers – 15% by Renault's Master van and 13% by Mercedes' new Sprinter.

A much tougher long term target of 135 g/km by 2020 was softened slightly to 140g.

Car industry body ACEA said the 2016 goal still did not give manufacturers enough time to comply, because vans take a long time to design and develop, and it called the 2020 goal "unfeasible".

But environmentalists countered that the auto industry had used the same argument to lobby against similar curbs for cars in 2008 and was now on track to clear that target with ease.

The regime of fines for automakers that fail to comply was eased to EUR95 per gram of excess CO2 from an original proposal of EUR120.