How the Time Traveling 'Back to the Future' DeLorean Works (Infographic)

Chart of features of the DeLorean time machine.
Doc Brown's time machine is a nuclear powered, stainless-steel flying car. (Image credit: by Karl Tate, Infographics Artist)

Inspired by an idea he had 30 years earlier, Emmett “Doc” Brown completed his time machine in October, 1985. Some of his first temporal experiments were trips to 1955 and the far-off future year of 2015. Here are some of the details behind Doc Brown’s breakthrough technology:

The key to time travel is the flux capacitor. The capacitor was designed by Doc Brown in October 1955 and was finally tested in October 1985.


This dashboard console  is where the time travel destination is set. Readouts include destination time, present time within the vehicle, and last time departed.


Originally fueled by radioactive plutonium, the time machine was modified in 1955 to run on the electricity in a lightning bolt. In 2015, a Mr. Fusion power plant was installed, allowing the time machine to run on practically any available matter.


On a trip to 2015, Doc Brown had a repulsorlift flying unit installed. The wheels swivel 90 degrees to deploy the flight thrusters.


To an observer, the departure of the time machine is a dramatic event. Lightning coils around the vehicle as the flux capacitor creates the time displacement field. The car appears to implode into a ball of plasma, and fiery trails are left by the car’s tires.

Karl Tate
LiveScience Infographic Artist
Karl has been Purch's infographics specialist across all editorial properties since 2010.  Before joining Purch, Karl spent 11 years at the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, creating news graphics for use around the world in newspapers and on the web.  He has a degree in graphic design from Louisiana State University.