The Difference Between Active, Hybrid and Passive Shippers

Aug 20, 2021

Temperature controlled packaging can feel complex. There are different types of shippers, temperature and payload sizes to consider, reusable and single-use options, and more. Let’s spend some time on the basics. First up: the difference between active, hybrid and passive temperature controlled packaging.

Active Systems
Active containers are most similar to refrigerators. They use mechanical or electric systems powered by an energy source, combined with thermostatic control to maintain product temperatures. Systems often require “plug in time” to charge prior to use and at key touch points.

Active systems require a closed-loop distribution system to ensure appropriate maintenance and recovery of reusable equipment. While these systems maintain good temperature control, they are expensive to purchase, run and maintain. They are also more costly to ship because they are heavier, they could require maintenance during transit and they are available in fewer sizes than other types of shippers.

Hybrid Systems
Hybrid systems are similar to active systems, but they incorporate a phase change material (PCM) bunker. The active element of the system charges a “PCM battery” that is used when the system is not being charged by a power source.

Hybrid systems share many of the same advantages and disadvantages as active systems. However, hybrid shippers have fewer components that may require maintenance.

Passive Systems
Passive systems use PCM, water coolants or dry ice and insulation to keep a payload at the right temperature. These systems offer more flexibility than active and hybrid systems, including single-use options that accommodate different types of distribution systems. Once components are conditioned, passive systems require no touch points to recharge.

Overall, passive systems have fewer shipping restrictions and lower weight contributes to reduced freight costs. There are also more size options and no maintenance required during transit. However, passive systems do have shorter shipping durations than active and hybrid systems.

Peli BioThermal products fit into the passive systems category of temperature controlled packaging. Our products offer payload sizes up to 96L with shipping durations up to 168 hours. Temperature ranges cover controlled room temperature to deep frozen. For more information about our passive systems, visit our product page.