An electric car charging point outside council offices has been used for just five minutes in seven months.

From July 2011 to February this year only 0.02kW of power was drawn in three transactions from the unit outside King’s House, Brighton and Hove City Council’s headquarters in Hove.

Critics called the points, which cost up to £18,000 each to install, a “green vanity project”.

The local authority said investment in infrastructure was needed to turn people on to electric cars.

Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “This green vanity project has hardly been used yet it’s costing taxpayers an absolute fortune to run.

“Proponents of the scheme are ignoring the impracticality of the cars, which is more likely to be a reason for the lack of demand.

“Only a small number of drivers will ever use a scheme that mostly suits those who only need to travel short distances, but everyone will still be stuck paying for it for years to come.”

A council spokesman said: “Low usage initially is inevitable – you have to first install the charging points before people will buy the vehicles and that’s where we are at present. The charging point at King’s House is there for the same reason – to enable the council to use electric vehicles in future.”

In 2009, the then Conservative-led council was the first city outside London to install a significant amount of electric car charging points in easily accessible roadside areas.

The first four power points in Brighton were launched in 2010 with five more installed under the new Green administration.

A council spokesman confirmed that the point outside King’s House in Hove was only for its workers but said the authority “isn’t yet using electric vehicles among its fleet”.

Brighton and Hove’s nine charging points were used for a total of 913 hours and 28 minutes in 257 transactions between July 2011 and February this year – enough to run an electric car for 1,792 miles (although the driver would have to recharge every 100 miles).

Brighton and Hove City Council is currently offering incentives to those using the points – it is free to use and will be until September.

Users will also get three hours’ free parking while they are charging their cars.

The charging points have been part-funded by the European CIVITAS scheme.

The most frequently used point was in Ditchling Road which has been used 68 times from July 15, 2011, to February 16, 2012. A charging point in Bartholomew Square has been used just 14 times and a second point in Ditchling Road eight times in the same period.