C4 photosynthesis is present in approximately 7,500 species classified into 19 families, including monocots and eudicots. In the majority of documented cases, a two-celled CO2-concentrating system that uses a metabolic cycle of four-carbon compounds is employed. C4 photosynthesis repeatedly evolved from C3 photosynthesis, possibly driven by the survival advantages it bestows in the hot, often dry, and nutrient-poor soils of the tropics and subtropics. The development of the C4 metabolic cycle greatly increased the ATP demand in chloroplasts during the evolution of malic enzyme-type C4 photosynthesis, and the additional ATP required for C4 metabolism may be produced by the cyclic electron transport around PSI. Recent studies have revealed the nature of cyclic electron transport and the elevation of its components during C4 evolution. In this review, we discuss the energy requirements of C3 and C4 photosynthesis, the current model of cyclic electron transport around PSI and how cyclic electron transport is promoted during C4 evolution using studies on the genus Flaveria, which contains a number of closely related C3, C4 and C3–C4 intermediate species.