Lightning, a bolt of which can generate 1.21 jigowatts.

Doc: "1.21 jigowatts!!!"
Marty: "What the hell is a jigowatt?"
— Doc and Marty discussing the video
" "Please, Doc," Marty begged. "You've gotta help me get back to the future. You're my only hope! I know you can figure something out." / "How do you know that?" / "Because you've never let me down in the past." / "You mean, in the future." / "Right," Marty agreed. "You've always told me that if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything, solve any problem." / "I said that? How egotistical. But I must say it's pretty good advice." / "Doc, I know you can pull this off. Maybe now I believe in you more than you believe in yourself." / "Marty, I'm touched that you have so much confidence in me," Doc Brown smiled. "I really am. It means a lot to me. But it's going to take more than confidence to generate 1.21 gigawatts of power. Do you have any idea how much energy that is? The only power source capable triggering that kind of energy is a bolt of lightning. It would have to be a real wall-shaker, big enough to stop a clock." / Marty snapped his fingers. / "Ah," Doc Brown said. "You've had an idea, but you forgot to say 'Eureka!'" "
—From Back to the Future by George Gipe (quote, page 133)

A jigowatt was a large amount of electricity, equivalent to 1 billion watts. The average light bulb was only 100 watts.

It took either a nuclear reaction or a bolt of lightning to generate up to 1.21 jigowatts, what Emmett Brown needed to power the electrical DeLorean time machine via the flux capacitor.

Behind the scenes

  • "Jigowatt" is a very rare and unsusual, pronunciation of gigawatt. While filming Back to the Future, the expert that was consulted for various scientific plot elements used this pronunciation. Unaware that it was an unusual pronunciation, Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis used in the movie. It could then be interpreted in-universe that Doc pronounces gigawatt with this unusual pronunciation, which would fit in with his eccentric nature.
  • Jigowatt is also a well-known Back to the Future-themed creative design agency based in Peterborough, England (see 'External links' below).


External links