The European Parliament's industry committee is pushing for auto manufacturers to be given an additional three years to hit the proposed European Union (EU)-wide 120g/km ceiling for carbon dioxide emissions (CO2).

The European Commission has proposed the industry should comply with this maximum by 2012, albeit with some built in flexibilities to accommodate concerns amongst manufacturers of larger cars.

But the committee - which usually takes the side of industrial interests when framing environmental legislation - wants manufacturers given significantly more time to adapt their engine and exhaust designs.

It has proposed that "in 2012 a quarter of a manufacturer's new cars, in 2013 half, in 2014 three-quarters and in 2015 all of them would have to achieve the target of 120g CO2/km, including the complementary measures."

The committee added in a report it approved last night (1 September): "This flexibility is needed to allow manufacturers the leeway they need for development…"

It noted that given today's 160g/km average emissions by cars in Europe, to comply with the new target "average fuel consumption must be reduced to about five litres per 100 km for petrol-driven vehicles and about 4.5 litres/100 km for diesel vehicles."

The report commented: "In comparison with current figures, these are very ambitious targets."

The proposed changes will need to be approved by the full parliament and the EU Council of Ministers to become law and resistance can be expected from the parliament's environment committee, which will make its proposals on 9 September. Ministers are expected to have their crucial vote in October.

And should the industry committee get its way at the parliament's plenary session, the council will also have to debate additional flexibility proposed by the committee.

It wants much lower penalties for manufacturers breaching the suggested CO2 ceiling than those tabled by the Commission, proposing EUR40 per excess gram of CO2 by 2015, compared with the Commission's EUR95 penalty.

The committee said that the Commission's penalties were "far higher than any conceivable trade prices for CO2 certificates in the industry and energy sectors", adding: "Penalties should not have the effect of weakening industry's ability to innovate, but should provide an incentive for implementing measures…"

It also wants to amend the CO2 emissions formula to encourage manufacturers to produce very low pollution cars, so that manufacturers producing cars emitting CO2 at less than 70g/km, could count each newly-registered vehicle if this type as five cars until 2016.