Understanding the LEED Requirements for Electric Vehicle Chargers in Chicago

Michael Tobias
8 Minutes Read
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    Last September 2018, US Green Building Council (USGBC) recently hailed Chicago as the seventh city in the world to achieve the highest level of certification for cities. Although LEED for Cities program has only been conceived in 2016, the world-class leadership of Chicago has proven to be a frontrunner in spearheading a great environmental track record on climate change mitigation.

    Branded now as a LEED Platinum City among its counterparts such as Seoul and Washington DC, Chicago’s focused efforts and commitment on its sustainable development policy matrix has paved way not only on green building initiatives, but most importantly, on transportation strategies.

    According to the 2017 Energy Benchmarking Report, recent study highlights that Chicago decreased emissions in the city by over 20% in just two years. While this recognition can be solely attributed to the city’s building energy use, Chicago’s implementation of electric vehicle chargers is also now slowly gaining traction.

    Drive Electric Chicago

    Enter Drive Electric Chicago, the movement on replacing fuel-powered internal combustion engine (ICE) cars with plug-in electric vehicles (PEV). Instead of ICE-based cars dominating the road and utilizing petroleum gasoline to fire up an engine, PEVs are electric-motored vehicles which can be plugged in using an electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) to recharge batteries from an off-board electric power source. However, these grid-rechargeable PEVs come in two types: all-electric vehicles (EVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) with ICE as a propulsion source.

    Evidently, there is a direct correlation between a city’s economic and environmental impacts, and the City of Chicago capitalizes wisely on this through the escalating record numbers of PEVs in use. With over an estimated one million PEVs on the road by 2017, there’s no doubt that these electric vehicles are on the rise since they continuously disrupt the market with impressive green benefits – reducing pollution by over 75%.

    Add in less operating costs, decreased petroleum consumption, zero direct emissions and home-based or public network of charging stations of your option – there’s no denying that PEVs are the future in transportation. These electric vehicles might come with high upfront costs, but you’ll recoup a greater maximum return on investment economically and environmentally, especially when available current technology is at play now to lower down the purchasing prices of PEVs.

    Electrify the future with PEVs.

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    Types of Charging Stations and Demand-Based Installation

    On the average, a Chicagoan travels a 22-mile daily commute. Say, you drive 12,000 miles annually, the $286 cost you incurred from charging a PEV at an off-peak rate of 0.07 kWh will gain you $1,634 savings than when you fuel up an ICE-based vehicle costing about $1,920.

    Since EVs typically have a higher battery capacity than PHEVs due to their all-electric makeup, they will take longer to charge when depleted at a zero level. As such, the charging time is also dependent on what type of ESVE you will use to recharge your PEV.

    Efficiency is key in this inverse relationship: the higher the installation and equipment costs, the faster the charging time, and vice versa. Both 120V Level 1 and 208V-240V Level 2 EVSE make use of alternating current (AC) – owing to larger charging rates due to direct current conversion, and typically producing values of 2-5 miles and 10-20 miles per hour, respectively. Conversely, Level 3 might be the most expensive ESVE option, but it will reap you a fast charging rate of 60-80 miles per hour through its 480V DC plug.

    However, Level 3 is only available for Building Management Track, and this demand-based installation usually starts by predetermining the level of PEV interest among the multi-unit dwelling (MUD) tenants before going through a rigorous process of selecting the electrical contractor and obtaining permits from the City of Chicago.

    For Residential or PEV Owner Track, this individual-based installation mandates that you install your own EVSE if living in a single-family home, or make an equitable arrangement with your building manager on the terms of ownership, maintenance and monthly electrical fees, whether fixed or sub-metered.

    Charging Station Type Power Supply Charge Time Miles Gained From 1 Hour of Charge Installation Cost Equipment Cost Impact on Environment

    Level 1 Outlet


    6 to 18 hours

    2 to 5 miles

    $0 to $250

    $0 to $1,000

    1.2 kW (equivalent to one toaster)

    Level 1 Station


    6 to 18 hours

    2 to 5 miles

    $1,000 to $1,500

    $500 to $700

    1.9 kW (equivalent to 1-1/2 toasters)

    Level 2 Station (Resident & Public Charging Station)

    208V to 240V

    3 to 8 hours

    10 to 20 miles

    $2,000 to $10,000

    $400 to $11,000

    3.3 kW to 7.2 kW (equivalent to 3 to 6 toasters)

    Level 3 DC Fast Charging Station

    Up to 480V

    Less than 30 minutes

    60 to 80 miles

    Average approx. $20,000

    $10,000 to $50,000

    35-50 kW (equivalent to 42 toaster)

    LEED Points for Electric Vehicle (EV) Charging Stations

    In reference to the City of Chicago’s Sustainable Development Policy Handbook, here are a few excerpts on the point-rating systems of electric vehicle chargers, as shown under the Sustainable Strategies Menu of Transportation:

    7.5 EV Charging Stations

    The project can earn 10 points if a dual Level 2 Electric Vehicle Charging Station is installed within the project’s site area.

    To comply with the documentation, you need to provide the station's description and verified location on the appropriate site plan.

    7.6 EV Charger Readiness

    The project can earn 5 points for providing parking spaces with panel capacity and dedicated conduit for 208-240V at up to 80 Amps or enough electrical capacity to fully power a Level 2 Electric Vehicle charger for at least 20% of the total parking spaces.

    Earning LEED points for this EV credit requirement warrants that you submit complete plans inclusive of EVSE type, location, raceway method, wiring schematics, conduit pathways and electrical calculations. Here's where our electrical engineering expertise lies: we can design the electrical capacity of your EVSE to operate at an optimum performance leveraging a full efficiency to charge all PEVs simultaneously at a full-rated amperage.

    To better understand the direct link between Chicago’s transportation sustainability strategies with the LEED certification level, we provide you a tabulated format below:

    LEED Certification Level 7.5 EV Charging Stations 7.6 EV Charger Readiness

    LEED Platinum



    LEED Gold



    LEED Silver



    Green Globes 4-Globes



    Green Globes 3-Globes



    Green Globes 2-Globes



    Living Building Challenge



    Living Building Challenge Petal



    Passive House



    Eligibility for Federal and Local Incentives

    As a Chicago PEV owner, you are qualified for some of the first-rated electric vehicle incentives. Level 1 EVSE usually comes with a standard NEMA connector at the time of purchase, but for Level 2 EVSE with a 240V plug similar to most household appliances, you can consult Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) to get a 50% rebate on installation costs, and a vehicle rebate up to $4,000. From federal to state and local incentives, there are plenty of financial options available which could serve as a catalyst in instigating the sustainable conversion from ICE to PEV.

    Government Entity Incentive Type Benefit Rebate Source

    Federal Government

    Electric vehicle

    $2,500 to $7,500 tax credit, depending on battery size

    IRS Tax Credit

    State of Illinois

    Electric vehicle

    80% rebate up to $4,000

    Illinois Green Fleets

    State of Illinois

    Charging station

    Rebate of 50% of installation cost, up to $3,000 per non-networked station

    Electric Vehicles in Illinois

    State of Illinois

    Electric vehicle registration fee

    Discount to $18 for PEVs (compared with $99 for a conventional car)

    Secretary of State Vehicle Registration

    Final Thoughts

    With the influx of fluctuating petroleum prices and environmental concerns, PEVs are a much viable option than ICE-based cars when it comes to affordability and convenience. Whether you choose the building management route or the resident track, consult with our expert electricians to guide you on the installation of your electric vehicle supply equipment. It is high time that we go mainstream with an energy-efficient transportation solution.


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    Tags : Electric Vehicle Chicago LEED

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