For cross-border traffic to France and Luxembourg, the Bundesbahn required electric locomotives that, in addition to the German power system with 15 kV and 16 2/3 Hz, are also suitable for the northern French system with 25 kV and 50 Hz. As early as 1960, three examples of the E 320 were built, which only reached 120 km/h with nose-suspended motors and were in use as the class 182 until the early 1980s. This was followed in 1965 by five E 410s with a rubber ring spring cardan drive, which reached a top speed of 150 km/h. These were additionally designed to operate under 1.5 or 3 kV DC, as used in Belgium, the Netherlands and parts of France. Load control using thyristors and mixed current motors were required for use with direct and alternating current. These locomotives were also used as class 184 until after the turn of the millennium.
Four prototypes of the E 310 finally followed in 1966, which were only suitable for the two AC systems and were therefore technically less complex. Nevertheless, the thyristor control, mixed current motors and the same drive were still used. Two locomotives had an electric resistance brake and were later classified as class 1810, while the other two had regenerative braking and were classed as class 1811.
From 1975, the increased demand for multi-system locomotives led to the procurement of 25 improved production locomtotives as the class 1812. These were now 160 km/h fast and did not differ in the drive technology from the prototypes, but there were improvements in the control technology. As with all previous locomotives, the locomotive body was designed relatively flat, since the overhead line in France is lower than in Germany.
Together with the prototypes and predecessors, the production locomotives were mainly used in front of passenger trains, but often also in front of freight trains. On the French side, they usually ran to Metz or Strasbourg, and they were also used in front of trains to Luxembourg. Depending on demand and capacity, they also ran on domestic German routes. With the introduction of high-speed trains between Germany and France, the locomotives gradually lost their area of responsibility for high-value passenger trains. After the four prototypes had been retired by 2003, the number of 1812 in use dropped significantly from around 2010 until the last example was retired in 2018.