For 12 years, the Trolley Car Diner in Mt. Airy has served its customers under a name that pays homage to a specific and traditional mode of public transportation. Now, it's one of the few locations in the city offering a charging-station for electric cars. 

On Thursday, Sept. 13, the diner unveiled the charging station for its customers using electric vehicles. The installation was reflective of what restaurant owner Ken Weinstein called a "hot" trend in the neighborhood: vehicles powered, partially or fully, by electricity.

"[I] like the juxtaposition of the old '50s-style diner [and the] brand-new electric charging," Weinstein said. "The latest, the oldest. "Before you know it, a lot of restaurants are going to have these type of charging stations," he said.

The charging station is located in the back of the parking lot next to the diner, located at 7619 Germantown Ave.
The idea to install a charger sparked during a conversation with longtime customer Dan Muroff and his wife, Melissa, Weinstein said.

The couple purchased a Chevy Volt, which can run on electricity for the first 25 to 50 miles of driving, approximately one year ago. Unlike full-electric cars, the vehicle also requires gasoline for a generator, which kicks into gear after the stored electricity is depleted.

Many factors fueled the couple's decision to purchase the vehicle, Melissa Muroff said, namely limited commuting and a garage to install a home charger. The Muroffs previously drove a BMW convertible. "To still love this car after giving up the BMW, that says something," she said.

The charging unit was purchased from U-Go Stations, a Philadelphia-based company, which installed the city's "first public charging station" at Liberty Plaza in Pennsport.

Local resident John Siemiarowski, owner of Electrical Wizardry, Inc., installed the charger for the company.
Mickey McLaughlin, a co-founder of U-Go Stations, said charging stations are beginning to gain popularity both in and out of the United States. "I just sold 50 units [in] Puerto Rico the other day," McLaughlin said. 

The charging station is currently free to the diner's customers. However, McLaughlin said there will be a small fee of $3.75 per hour starting this October.

While the diner has only installed one charger, Weinstein said he would consider adding additional stations if demand is high. He will also consider installing one at sibling-restaurant Trolley Car Café in East Falls.

However, Meenal Raval, a member of Mt. Airy Greening Network, a volunteer group dedicated to sustainability, said she hasn't seen an abundance of electric cars in the area. Raval said communities should invest in efficient public transportation rather than in private vehicles. Focusing on communal vehicles, such as neighborhood golf-cart style vehicles to drive short distances, and sustainable buses and trains are "really what the urban environment needs," she said.

Still, the diner's addition of the charger comes just a few months after a PennEnvironment report predicted drivers in the Commonwealth will purchase more than 15,000 plug-in vehicles by 2015.  The results of the report could reduce global warming pollution by more than 19,000 metric tons each year.

Weinstein, who owns a hybrid vehicle, may just be among this group. "I would assume that soon I will be trading that in for an electric car," he said.