Physics

How fast does electricity travel?

electric

The answer to your question depends on what you mean by ‘electricity’. I think you mean ‘how fast do electrical signals travel along wires’. Before I answer let me give you an analogy.

In the air around us molecules are moving in all directions with a range of speeds, typically around 500 metres per second (over 1000 miles per hour!). Wind speeds – where the air moves en masse – are much slower than that; typically just a few metres per second. However sound waves can travel through the air almost as fast as the molecules – around 340 metres per second.

In copper wires tiny particles called electrons are constantly moving at speeds of just around 1,000,000 metres per second (yes, one million metres per second!). When an electric current flows in the copper, the electrons then ‘drift’ in one direction typically with a speed of just a fraction of a millimetre per second! However, waves can travel through the copper at speeds that are almost as fast as the motion of electrons themselves.