ESSEX Police officers are to get special talking cars to stop them filling up with the wrong kind of fuel.

The force is introducing fuel-cap devices, which will remind staff whether to put petrol or diesel in their vehicle.

Over the past five years, officers filled up with the wrong fuel 222 times, leading to a repair bill of about £42,000.

Police spokeswoman Donna Veasey said: “Essex Police have previously suffered from wrong fuels being put into tanks.

“Police officers and staff often drive a variety of vehicles during the course of the week and they may be either petrol or diesel-fuelled.

“To combat this, Essex Police fitted large yellow fuel flaps over the filling point, reminding the driver to refill the vehicle with the correct fuel.

“In addition we have been fitting light activated voice reminders which chirp ‘this is a diesel vehicle’ when the fuel cap is opened.

“We have also been fitting devices which fit into the filler neck that make it almost impossible to get a petrol nozzle into a diesel tank. Fortunately manufacturers now fit these as standard, so wrong fuels should be a thing of the past.”

Jon Day, spokesman for the RAC said using the wrong fuel was a common problem, but he admitted being a little bemused as to the lengths Essex Police have gone to.

He said: “You would think the police should be properly trained to know what fuel a car needs.

“If you are going to be using numerous types of cars, then it needs to be clear, but I don’t know whether talking petrol caps are really necessary.”

It is not yet known how much the scheme will cost.

Meanwhile, the problem of putting the wrong kind of fuel into cars is being tackled by an Essex entrepreneur.

Michael Cotton, a businessman from Dunmow, scooped £250,000 from the BBC television show Dragons’ Den.

The Misfuelling Prevention Device replaces the fuel filler cap on diesel vehicles to prevent the nozzle of unleaded petrol pumps being slotted into the neck of diesel tanks.

It is not known if the devices used by Essex Police will come from Mr Cotton.