Back to the Future – 1.21 gigawatts for time travel

In the 80’s hit movie trilogy Back to the Future, 1.21 gigawatts (pronounced jiggawatts in the movie) was the amount of electricity it took to power the flux capacitor on the DeLorean time machine.

In the movie Dr. Emmettt Brown used a lightning strike to generate this amount of power.

We know the fictional flux capacitor requires 1,210,000,000 watts of power. What does it take to generate this much power in real life?

This is the amount of power created by…


1 1/2 Nuclear reactors at 800 MW each would generate this much power.
Around 600 Wind turbines at 2 MW each would generate this much power.
1 Lighting strike would generate this much power. Power levels of lightning strikes vary greatly but 1.21 gigawatts is within their range.


Fun Fact: The future scenes in Back to the Future take place in 2015, only 2 years from when this post is written.

Where are the flying cars?! We were promised flying cars!…and hoverboards!
(Technically the hoverboards do actually exist but they aren’t quite as much fun as Marty McFly’s.)

We do however have video phones, thanks to the Skype and Facetime. At least they lived up to that promise. Yay!!

One thing that wasn’t available in 1985 but is available today is the ability for a person to choose their own electricity supplier. Companies like Oasis Energy give consumers an alternative to the monopoly provider and allow customers to lock in low fixed electricity rates. 

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