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X-Ray 100 Challenge: Give up a car

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X-Ray production team X-Ray production team | 19:31 UK time, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

We see if a family of four can go without their wheels for a week.

Ellen Petts is a busy mum of two from Pentyrch in Cardiff. With husband Magnus she looks after Yasmin, who's six, and three-year-old Callum. Magnus is a quantity surveyor and Ellen works at a recycling network in the capital.

When Ellen agreed to be part of the X-Ray 100, our panel of consumers right across Wales, we thought she'd be perfect for a little challenge, and Rhodri decided to take along some secret weapons to make sure there was no cheating.

The Petts are a two car family. Magnus uses his to travel between the sites he visits as part of his job and Ellen uses hers for work, shopping, going to the gym and ferrying the children around - just about everything, except the school run as the school is so close!

We're a nation of car lovers - 77% of households in Wales own at least one car - and that's higher than England or Scotland.

So the challenge set was for Ellen to give up her car for a whole week.

Ellen told Rhodri, "We've thought about this before tried to make it work and thought we're not going to manage it. I used to walk to work and before then cycled to work, and I loved it.

"And then, moving up to Pentyrch, the big down-side, has been having to take the car every day."

Magnus said that the benefits of reducing to only one car would be a reduction in "the amount of fuel that we'll use, less wear and tear on the car and probably do us some good from a bit of exercise."

Rhodri then revealed that as well as taking the keys to the Petts' second car, he'd also be providing a video camera for them to record their experiences.

He showed Ellen and Magnus their car, clamped and covered with security tape, to make sure they couldn't use a second set of keys.

Ellen said: "We've been clamped! There's no getting away from this now is there?"

Excerpts from the Pett's Video Diary

Day One - Enthusiasm turns to frustration

Yasmin: "Hello... today is Monday, and Mummy has to rush to school and she's got four minutes to run to the bus!"

Ellen: "I cannot believe it's taken me an hour and twenty minutes to get home when normally it would take a maximum 20 minutes in the car. Not great really!"

Day Two - Reality bites

Ellen: "At the bus stop, managed to get the bus, haven't needed my car. Very pleased!" Although the mood soon changed once Ellen got to work.

Ellen: "A bit more fed up today, seemed to be such a hike to walk up here again."

Day Three - The going gets tough

Ellen: "I never before thought how heavy my laptop was I suppose, because I always just got out of the car and got into work.

"But yesterday my laptop was so heavy it was awful, I kept changing the arms, it was pouring with rain, holding my umbrella, I got really hot and bothered."

Day Four - Magnus decides to do his bit

Magnus: "I actually got a lift home with a colleague from work, so with a bit of jiggery pokery and a bit of negotiation, we can always make our way home rather than using the bus.

"And I got home in half an hour compared to the hour and forty minutes it took to get to the office in the morning."

Day Five - Light at the end of the tunnel

Ellen: "I've just been for a jog instead of going to the gym this morning, feel very virtuous but still looking forward to getting the car back."

When Rhodri returned to the Petts' home he told them that based on the figures they'd given for the costs for Ellen to get to work by bus and how much the family spend on their second car, running it, maintenance, fuel etc, they could save £2,300 a year by having just the one car.

So faced with the cold cash savings, would the Petts give up their second set of wheels?

Magnus revealed, "Not really, not at the moment. With both of us working different places, different times, the necessity for two cars is still there, the difficulty is getting to work."

But it seems that the challenge has made them think twice about their car habits!

Ellen said, "What has come out of this is that we will try harder. I will get the bus probably one out of the three days I work.

"I will make effort around the school to get some car sharing going, and I will look to save some of the money that we do spend."

The Petts' experience seems reflected across the capital. When Rhodri took to the streets of Cardiff to ask whether people would give up their second car, most people who worked said it was the commute to their place of work which proved the trickiest to overcome.

Although some enthusiastic souls opted for pedal power and cycled round Cardiff rather than have any cars in their household!

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